AFC West: Louis Murphy

The Oakland Raiders are seemingly in a never-ending quest for a wide receiver to develop.

The Raiders have swung on and missed with the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens in recent years.

There is a new group of young, unproven receivers in Oakland. All have talent, but none are sure things. The Raiders are totally open at the spot and are hoping some of these players develop. Oakland may have trouble keeping six at the position because of the possibility the team will keep extra players at quarterback and at tight end. Below is a look at what Oakland’s receiving corps may look like as we approach the 53-man cut Saturday:

Rod Streater: He has been quiet in the preseason and is now dealing with a possible concussion. He may have the most upside on roster.

Denarius Moore: Oakland wants to see this third-year talent become more consistent and more mature on the field. He has big potential.

Jacoby Ford: The Raiders made a commitment to Ford by cutting Josh Cribbs, as they're both similar players. The key for the explosive Ford is his health, which has been a problem.

Juron Criner: A camp star last year who has been injured and fairly quiet. Still, I’d be surprised if he isn’t kept.

Brice Butler: Seventh-round pick has been impressive. He has all the tools, but can he make an instant impact?

Andre Holmes: He has been impressive and has good size. Holmes is facing a four-game suspension to start season, but I could see him in Oakland’s long-term plans.

Greg Jenkins: He has some ability, but he may be caught in numbers game.

Conner Vernon: An undrafted pick who was an early favorite to stick, but he might be practice-squad material.
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How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Denver

The Broncos made the biggest free-agency splash in the AFC West by signing New England slot machine Wes Welker.

He has led the NFL in receptions over the past six seasons and is joining a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who has long had a connection with his slot receivers. The Welker addition gives Denver arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL.

Welker joins young receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both players flourished while playing with Manning last season. With these skilled players, someone is going to be open. Finding a way to defend this trio will be a major task for every defensive coordinator that faces Denver.

Kansas City

This position is going to be in the spotlight because new head coach Andy Reid loves the passing game.

It all starts with top receiver Dwayne Bowe. There is a reason the new Kansas City brass gave Bowe a huge contract to keep him from leaving in free agency. Reid is going to build his passing game around Bowe. Bowe has big ability and can be a top receiver. Yes, he still drops passes and he has to show he will still be hungry after getting the big contract. But he can play.

The Chiefs made an underrated addition in Donnie Avery. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season. He can stretch the field. Reid will find ways for Avery to help. Reid is also a fan of tiny Dexter McCluster, who can line up in several different spots. Perhaps he can fill a DeSean Jackson-like role for Reid.

The team also has a slot option in Devon Wylie. A big question mark, of course, is 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin. He has made little impact. He looks good in camp but disappears on the field. Reid gave him a lukewarm endorsement recently. Baldwin has talent, but it’s time he shows it. I think we could see the Chiefs draft another bigger receiver in the middle rounds, but I think the team will try to rely on Bowe, Avery and McCluster this season and hope others develop.

Oakland

The Raiders have a familiar theme at this position. They are young and promising, but they are also unproven. That has been the story with this unit for a few years. They Raiders have loaded up on young receivers, but none have shown they can be a proven starter.

The team released 2009 No. 7 overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey this year. He joins fellow young, promising receivers Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy as those who have been jettisoned in the recent past after not fulfilling hopes. But the cupboard is not bare. Again, we need to see these players take the next step.

The two players who probably will get the first chance are Denarius Moore and Rod Streater. Moore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, had a decent season last year -- 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdowns. But he was inconsistent and didn’t make the expected strides after his rookie season. Still, he has ability, and the Raiders need him to show he can be a No. 1 receiver. Streater had 39 catches as an undrafted rookie. He looks very promising and is a hard worker. If Streater and Moore can grow together, the Raiders might be onto something for the future.

Small receiver Jacoby Ford has big-play capability, but he is injury prone. Still, he will get a chance to show he can help. Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, was a camp star and made a few plays in the season. He has a chance to develop as well. The Raiders have a lot of needs, but I can see them adding another receiver to the mix. Again, this group is full of potential. Now it’s time Oakland gets major production from that potential.

San Diego

The Chargers can use some receiving help. They have other needs, but I can see them taking a receiver as early as the second round. If the season started now, Malcom Floyd would be the team’s No. 1 receiver and he is more of a No. 2 receiver.

But there is hope. Danario Alexander made an impact last season. He was a former prospect who fell through the cracks because of injuries. He is a restricted free agent, and it wouldn't be out of the question for another team to sign him to an offer sheet. The Chargers would like to keep him. He has great size, big ability and he forged a nice chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The team is also excited about Vince Brown. He missed all of last season after suffering a broken ankle in the preseason. He came on strong as a rookie and will have a role. There also are Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Both signed last year and both gave minimal production.

They will be given a chance, but the Chargers want to see Alexander and Brown continue to develop. It would not hurt the team to go find a young receiver it could try to develop quickly.
Rod Streater and Juron Criner have been the stories of the summer for the Oakland Raiders.

Good thing. The rookies may be needed when the regular season starts. After two injuries and a now questionable trade, the Raiders are dangerously thin at receiver, which was one of the deepest positions on an otherwise thin roster.

Streater, an undrafted free agent, and Criner, a fifth-round pick, may be called to duty soon. Yes, they have been good -- particular Streater who has 13 catches in the preseason -- but the regular season is a different animal. The two must rise to the challenge.

Starting receiver Denarius Moore has been dealing with a lingering hamstring injury all camp. Fellow starter Darrius Heyward-Bey has a shoulder injury that the team doesn’t think is overly serious. However, No. 3 receiver and return man Jacoby Ford, has a sprained foot on the same foot that cost him several games late last season. Ford’s availability to start the season is in jeopardy.

Oakland traded reliable Louis Murphy to Carolina prior to training camp for a conditional seventh-round pick. The Raiders thought Murphy was expendable because of all of their promising talent at the position. What worried me about that trade was a team with overall depth problems probably shouldn’t give up quality players. The Raiders would feel a lot better right now if Murphy was still in Silver and Black.

Oakland’s receiving group is susceptible, at least, for now. Expect to hear more about the idea of picking up a veteran like Plaxico Burress or Chad Johnson. I’ve been against that idea. I admit, because of the injuries, the idea of Burress or Johnson may be creeping closer to becoming worthwhile.

However, in the long term, I still think Oakland is better off developing its young receivers. That begins with Streater and Criner, who just may get their chance to prove they belong as soon as their NFL careers begin.
Oakland coach Dennis Allen told reporters that No. 3 receiver Jacoby Ford may miss some time with a sprained foot.

Ford
It is the same foot that cost Ford several games last season. Allen said the injury could keep Ford out of action once the regular season starts. Ford’s injury could mean serious playing time for rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater. It also makes the trade of the reliable Louis Murphy (he was sent to Carolina for a conditional seventh-round pick) look less wise.

Veterans such as Plaxico Burress and Chad Johnson are available. If the Raiders suffer any more injuries at the position or if Ford's lingers, outside help may be necessary at a position that looks thin, at least for now.

The Raiders had several other injuries Friday in a loss at Arizona, but Allen doesn’t think any of them are serious at this point.

Meanwhile, Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb took umbrage with the derogatory comments Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly made about him Friday night.

Raiders Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
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Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL

One thing I'm certain of: The Raiders will be careful with running back Darren McFadden. He is the team’s best player and he is the key to the team’s success in 2012. The problem with McFadden, one of the best running backs in the NFL, has been his health. He has had durability issues since coming into the NFL in 2008. He missed the final nine games of the 2011 season with a serious foot injury.

McFadden is 100 percent healthy and the Raiders want him to stay that way. Yes, McFadden needs to reacquaint himself with the zone-blocking approach and the West Coast offense, but he will not be overworked. McFadden, who missed some time in camp last year with an eye injury, must be ready for the regular season, especially since the Raiders don’t have any experienced backups as of now. Punishing him in camp doesn’t make any sense.

One thing that might happen: We could see clarity at the receiver position pretty early in camp. The situation opened up earlier this week when Oakland traded Louis Murphy to Carolina for a conditional seventh-round pick. Murphy is a solid possession receiver, but his role in Oakland was up in the air because there is so much potential talent at the position.

I believe Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey will remain the starters, with Jacoby Ford being the No. 3 receiver. The receivers to watch are rookies Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick, and Rod Streater, an undrafted receiver. Both players were terrific in the organized team activities season. If they continue to impress in training camp, they should both put themselves in position to be part of the rotation once the season starts.

One thing we won't see: The coaching staff will not be looking over their shoulders during camp. The coaches will be allowed to coach their way without any chance of being overruled.

That is new in Oakland. The Raiders are about to start their first training camp since the death of owner Al Davis. Davis made several decisions and often overruled coaches on schemes. Oakland safety Michael Huff addressed it earlier in the offseason. New general manager Reggie McKenzie will let new coach Dennis Allen and his staff do it their way. It should help set the tone for the new era in Oakland.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, held earlier Tuesday:

Denver

Trent from Denver: Is there any concern of (Von) Miller's hand injury being a problem going forward? His play dropped of significantly afterwards last season.

Bill Williamson: Are far as I'm concerned. On Miller: He was good in the playoffs when his injury healed. He was basically playing with one hand after the thumb injury. He is fine now.

Kansas City

Jordan C. from Everett, WA.: What do you think the odds are of Jeff A. and Devon W. making the starting lineup and/or making a significant impact for the team?

BW: I think Lilja plays one more year before Allen takes over. Wylie will be given a chance to play in multiple receiver sets and on special teams right away if he earns it.

Oakland

Tony from Richmond, CA.: Is trading Louis Murphy to the Panthers addition by subtraction for the Raiders? Who will step up as the top two receivers for Oakland and pose a legitimate threat to opposing defenses as a tandem on the outside?

BW: Its addition by subtraction if Criner and Streater are both ready to play. But this trade worries me just a tad because the Raiders don't have a lot of overall depth. So trading a solid player for a conditional 7th doesn't make this team better for the 2012 season. What if a starter does down and Criner isn't ready? Murphy would be very much missed.

San Diego

Zac from New York: If Norv Turner and AJ Smith fail yet again this year, and they are let go. Are there really any bright contenders for the positions or has San Diego missed out on a great opportunity by not letting them go last year and making a run for someone like Fisher?

BW: There are always surprise coaches who become available. I wouldn't worry about that if a change is necessary in San Diego.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Carolina Panthers will send the Oakland Raiders a conditional seventh-round pick for receiver Louis Murphy. The deal will be contingent on Murphy making the 53-man roster, which he should.

I’m not surprised the compensation is low. The price tag for average players is just not high. This trade is a little risky for Oakland. If rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater aren’t ready to contribute, the team could miss Murphy. He was a solid possession receiver when healthy.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey pleaded no contest to drunk driving charges Monday stemming from an April arrest. He will now enter the NFL’s substance abuse program if he isn’t already in the confidential program. He could potentially face a short NFL suspension.

Oft-injured San Diego linebacker Larry English was among the handful of veterans who practiced with the Chargers’ rookies Monday. English, the No. 16 overall pick in 2009, is facing a make-or-break season in San Diego.

As expected, San Diego first-round pick Melvin Ingram is working on defensive line spots as well as linebacker. He is a versatile player who the team will often move around. But linebacker will likely be his primary spot.

The Chargers are putting rookie guard Johnnie Troutman on the physically unable to perform list as expected. He suffered an arm injury prior to the draft. The team thinks he should be ready to play later this season.

The 49ers signed former Denver safety Darcel McBath.
The Oakland Raiders' rotation at wide receiver is starting to become clearer after the team traded four-year veteran Louis Murphy to Carolina for an undisclosed conditional draft pick on Monday. Let’s take a look at how the position breaks down for Oakland.

Likely starters: Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey

What to look for: This has a chance to be a solid duo. Moore had 38 catches as a rookie last season and by all accounts, he has a chance to be a star. He will get the chance to shine in 2012. Heyward-Bey broke out in 2011 with 64 catches after a terrible first two seasons. While Moore is a terrific deep threat, watch for Heyward-Bey to continue to shine on shorter routes.

Likely third receiver: Jacoby Ford

What to look for: Ford is explosive and he can be used in several different ways. If he can stay healthy, Ford can make a lot of big plays.

The rookies: Juron Criner and Rod Streater

What to look for: These two players will be closely watched this summer and their development will determine whether dealing Murphy was the right move. Both Criner, a fifth-round pick, and Streater, an undrafted rookie, were outstanding during organized team activities. They will still have to prove themselves in camp and in the preseason before the team can be comfortable with either being a factor in the regular season. I bet Criner will be given the chance to be the No. 4 receiver. Unless he totally flops in the summer, Streater has a strong chance to make the team and be at the bottom of the rotation.
The Oakland Raiders have parted ways with receiver Louis Murphy.

Murphy
The Raiders confirmed the trade of Murphy to the Carolina Panthers. The Raiders said they received an undisclosed conditional draft choice for Murphy. It is likely a third-day pick based on Murphy's 2012 production.

This trade is not surprising. I have thought Murphy would likely be moved later in the summer if the Raiders’ young pieces at receiver continue to develop. The fact that the trade has already been made is a sign Oakland is confident in its crew of receivers.

Promising youngsters Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey are expected to start with the explosive Jacoby Ford playing a role. Rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater were terrific in the offseason and both have a chance to play.

That left Murphy in a tough spot. The fourth-round pick in 2009 was productive in his first two NFL seasons, but injuries kept him from making an impact last season.

Murphy is a good, solid possession receiver. But he was expendable in Oakland as the Raiders turn to other youngsters at the position.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

Jamal from Hawaii: What happened to Marcus Thomas DT in Denver?

Bill Williamson: I guess he could come back but they have seemed to move on. DT depth isn't as big of a problem as it was a few months ago.

Kansas City

Taylor from Texas: Which AFC West team is most likely to have a championship caliber defense this season (for me, a championship defense, above all else, is great at rushing the passer and consistently forcing turnovers)?

BW: I think KC has the best defense in the division, particularly in the back eight. If Poe at the nose can be an instant difference maker, watch out.

Oakland

THE Famous Darth from Classy Philly: At this point right now, who would you take: Rod Streater or Louis Murphy?

BW: Tough one, Dude. I mean for 2012, it's Murphy. But if Streater is good in the preseason, there has to be a spot for him. I could see Murphy being shopped -- a la Patrick Crayton -- on cut-down weekend. That is not a report, just a hunch.

San Diego

Tony from Richmond, CA.: Who will be the AFC West ROY?

BW: I'm a big Melvin Ingram guy. I expect big things right away.
Weekend mail call:

MD Ellis from Marysville, Calif., wants to know if the Oakland Raiders could trade a receiver such as Louis Murphy because of fifth-round pick Juron Criner.

Bill Williamson: Perhaps late in the preseason, something could happen since Murphy is a free agent after next season. But I think the most likely situation is Oakland will keep all of their young receivers and see how it develops. It’s a good, solid group. But it needs some players to stand out, so the Raiders may be better off keeping everyone and seeing how it plays out.

Jon from Fort Dodge, Iowa wants to know if I think the Denver Broncos have a realistic chance to make the Super Bowl.

BW: If Peyton Manning's neck issues are behind him, I think Denver has a chance to be very competitive and they should be a fairly strong team. But there are more talented teams in the AFC West and Denver has the second toughest schedule in the NFL. For Denver to get to the Super Bowl it will need its defense to continue to make huge strides, have great health and some good fortune.

Kurt from Seattle wants to know what I think about Kansas City Chiefs receivers coach Nick Sirianni.

BW: Sirianni has been highly regarded in Kansas City. He was the offensive quality control coach for the past three years. He helped in several different areas and he was credited for helping Matt Cassel during his strong season in 2010. I think Sirianni certainly can be a coach to look for as an offensive coordinator candidate in the coming seasons.

Ranking AFC West receivers

May, 14, 2012
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Continuing our 2012 AFC position-by-position rankings, here are the receivers. It’s a young, fairly unproven group that lost top players Vincent Jackson and Brandon Lloyd in the past year:

1. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City: With Jackson gone, Bowe, who received the franchise tag by the Chiefs this offseason, is the clear top receiver in the division.

2. Malcom Floyd, San Diego: Floyd is good, but he probably wouldn’t be ranked this high in most divisions. If he can stay healthy, he can be a star.

3. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland: I have a lot of respect for Heyward-Bey for taking a big step during the 2011 season. He still is not perfect and he has to prove he can be a consistent player, but he has a chance.

4. Demaryius Thomas, Denver: I bet Thomas will be ranked at least No. 2 on this list next year. The sky is the limit.

5. Eric Decker, Denver: Peyton Manning is already talking him up. You know what that means -- lots of catches.

6. Denarius Moore, Oakland: Moore showed flashes as a rookie and he has star potential. He will be given a chance to shine.

7. Robert Meachem, San Diego: Meachem is not as good as Jackson was, but he fits the Chargers’ vertical offense and he will make his presence felt.

8. Jon Baldwin, Kansas City: Baldwin has large potential and he easily could be in the top three on this list next year. He has to show he’s ready for the challenge.

9. Jacoby Ford, Oakland: I’m a big Ford fan, but his health and the presence of Heyward-Bey and Moore may make him a third option.

10. Vincent Brown, San Diego: The Chargers love this kid. Expect nice, big numbers this year.

11. Steve Breaston, Kansas City: He’s a solid, steady receiver who can help his team win.

12. Andre Caldwell, Denver: He will be interesting to watch. The Broncos think this free-agent pickup could make his presence felt.

13. Louis Murphy, Oakland: Murphy can’t stay healthy and other receivers may have bypassed him. But he’s a pro who knows how to come up with the big catch.

14. Eddie Royal, San Diego: The former Denver receiver will be given a chance to shine in the Chargers’ rotation.

15. Devon Wylie, Kansas City: This is a projection pick. The Chiefs love him and think he can come in and make some catches as a fourth-round pick.
I won’t make it a habit to disagree with Jerry Rice about the wide receiver position. I think it makes good sense to defer to the greatest receiver of all-time on the subject.

However, on NFL Live on Tuesday, the ESPN analyst said something I can’t be on board with -- Terrell Owens would fit in with the Oakland Raiders.

Asked if he thought Owens would fit in with an NFL team, Rice said he thought the Raiders would be a fit because they could use a veteran to go along with their several young receivers.

Adding fuel to the possibility, of course, is Owens is friends and former teammates with Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer. Owens worked out with Palmer and some Oakland receivers this offseason.

Still, I don’t like the fit.

The Raiders are going in a new direction in leadership and I think a player like Owens would not be a good addition to the locker room to start the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era. Owens can be a distraction. The Raiders don’t need any distractions.

Plus, Owens is 38 and he did not play in the NFL in 2011. Where’s the appeal here?

Rice is right that Oakland’s receiving crew is young. But these players need to play and develop. Having Owens taking away repetitions from the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and rookie Juron Criner just doesn’t make sense to me.

Again, it’s not wise to argue the reviver position with Jerry Rice. But I think it would be less wise for Oakland to pursue Owens.
The Oakland Raiders have one of the most interesting receiver situations in the NFL.

They have several talented players but none who have completely proven themselves. Yet, the unit looked solid enough where they can let some players separate themselves. Still, the Raiders added an intriguing player to the mix when they drafted Arizona’s Juron Criner with the No. 168 pick in the fifth round.

I like this pick a lot.

Criner likely would have never been drafted by the Raiders in the past. He is not a speed demon. Al Davis would have seen that 4.7 speed and thrown Criner’s game tape in the garbage.

But he is a solid football player. He is 6-3, 220 pounds and he’s pretty polished. He has a chance to develop into a good NFL player. He is not a sure thing, but he has good ball skills and he always gives a full effort.

I think the new Oakland régime will throw him in the mix with the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy and let these young players develop.

Yes, it’s a bit of a luxury pick. At the very least, Criner could be a helpful bottom-of-the rotation possession guy, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he offers more value than that.

Do the Raiders need a top receiver?

February, 20, 2012
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There has been a lot of talk this offseason that the Oakland Raiders should try to add a No. 1 receiver in free agency.

There has been talk that Oakland will make a run at New Orleans' Marques Colston, who will be one of the top free-agent receivers available. It is a deep receiver class that also may include Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson. So, Oakland will have some options if it wants to get into the receiver game in free agency.

While adding a player of Colston’s caliber would certainly help any offense, I don’t think the Raiders should make receiver a priority position.

The Raiders, who at last check were $11 million over the salary cap and one of four teams that still has to get under the cap, will eventually get under the cap. But don’t expect them to be able to be one of the NFL’s biggest spenders. That means Oakland must be prudent in its spending and address the defense first. There is immediate help needed at cornerback and perhaps at linebacker and at safety.

As appealing as adding a big-name receiver may be, the Raiders aren’t in horrible shape at the position. Yes, they do not have a legitimate No. 1 receiver on the roster. But they perhaps have one in the making.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2009 draft, made major strides in 2011. After catching a pitiful 35 passes in his first 26 games, Heyward-Bey broke out for 64 catches and 975 yards in 2011. Yes, he is still somewhat inconsistent. But Heyward-Bey deserves a chance to show what he can do in 2012.

There is also 2011 fifth-round pick Denarius Moore. He had 35 catches last season and made some special plays.

I think having Heyward-Bey and Moore as the starters in 2012 is a pretty good start, especially considering the presence of the dynamic, but small Jacoby Ford and the reliable Louis Murphy. The Raiders will probably let former top prospect Chaz Schilens -- whose career has been marred by numerous injuries -- walk in free agency.

A core of Heyward-Bey, Moore, Ford and Murphy (I’m sure other role players will be added) will suffice this season. The Raiders’ offseason must concentrate on defense. Adding a receiver is a luxury that can become a priority in 2013 if either Heyward-Bey and/or Moore fail to progress.

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