AFC West: Greg Little

NAPA, Calif. – Perhaps the biggest surprise on the Oakland Raiders initial depth chart on Monday was where receiver Denarius Moore was listed.

Third. Behind Andre Holmes and James Jones. Rod Streater, Greg Little and Juron Criner are the top three at the other receiver position.

On the surface, that’s bubble territory. As in, you’re on the bubble to make the 53-man roster. Yet while coach Dennis Allen insisted he takes “not much” stock in his own depth chart this early in training camp -- hey, the Raiders had to put out something four days before the exhibition opener at the Minnesota Vikings -- Moore’s poor body language during practice spoke volumes.

Moore
Of course, we could be reading into things, but this much is true: The Raiders are still waiting for Moore, who has been alternately explosive and frustrating in his first three NFL seasons, to be more consistent.

“One of the big topics has kind of been a little bit of the inconsistency in the past, but I think he’s been a lot better in this camp,” Allen said of Moore. “I’m excited about Denarius Moore. I’m really excited about the whole receiving corps really, because I think we’ve got a lot of young guys that have an opportunity to surprise some people.

“But, I do think Denarius is getting better as a football player and he has in this camp.”

And there lies the rub. Moore has been consistently inconsistent. One week, the former fifth-round draft pick out of Tennessee is an explosive, acrobatic playmaking pass catcher. Then he’ll disappear for weeks.

In three years, he has caught 130 passes for 2,054 yards and 17 touchdowns, but his per-season yards-catch averages have gone from 18.7 yards to 14.5 to 15.1.

Moore also has missed seven games due to injury in his career, and his mind has played tricks on him along the way.

“I was worrying whether I was going to be able to be that go-to guy, or what I was supposed to [do] on this down or that down,” Moore told the Bay Area News group. “If I dropped the last pass, I’d think, ‘Are they going to come back to me? Do they have faith in me?’

“I should have just let it go and go on to the next play.”

Since his rookie season, Moore has caught regular season passes from seven different quarterbacks -- Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin. Matt Schaub will make eight this season.

What’s that about maddening inconsistency, again?

“For a smaller guy, compared to our other receivers, he can still go up and make the high-point of the football and adjust to it in the air,” Schaub said of Moore. “I think he’s a guy that can take those short catches and turn them into big ones with his athleticism.”

The question then is can he do it consistently?

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?

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