AFC West: Marques Colston

Do the Raiders need a top receiver?

February, 20, 2012
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.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

 US Presswire
 Oakland's JaMarcus Russell, right, struggled in Sunday's 34-3 loss to New Orleans while Drew Brees continues to have a stellar season.

NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Cable witnessed the passing game he envisions for his Oakland Raiders. Only problem? It was the New Orleans Saints' passing game getting the new Raiders coach so excited.

After world-class Raiders-killer Drew Brees systemically chewed up his defense, Cable said that's what he wants to see from his young quarterback and his offense.

"We have to use them as a model," Cable said.

I don't know if a coach with "interim" at the start of his title has that kind of time.

The difference between Brees and Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was startling Sunday in the Saints' 34-3 breeze. Brees was in total command and played effortlessly. Cable said his defense never "bothered" Brees.

Brees completed his first 16 passes and finished 26-of-30 for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Brees is now 7-2 lifetime against Oakland after years of beating them with the San Diego Chargers.

"That's unreal," Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall said of Brees' numbers. "We didn't make one play on defense."

While Brees was putting on a clinic, Russell continued to struggle to find his way in his first full season as the Raiders' starting quarterback. In his homecoming, Russell -- who is from Mobile, Ala. -- completed 13 of 35 passes for 159 yards with one interception. However, New Orleans dropped six other potential interceptions.

Russell, whom Oakland took with the No. 1 overall draft pick out of LSU in 2007, showed he has a long way to go before proving he can be a winning NFL quarterback. But there's no doubt the Raiders, who are now 1-4, will give him a chance to show he is ready to be a game-changing player.

A theme for the rest of Oakland's season will be to make Russell a solid NFL passer. Former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin had Russell on a short leash. The combination of Russell's youth, suspect pass protection and an even more suspect receiving corps made Kiffin take baby steps with Russell.

Time and again, Kiffin said the Raiders were a better running team than a passing team. Yet under the guidance of Cable, Oakland's offensive line coach, and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the plan is for Russell to throw more and longer. He has a cannon arm, but it has been muted by the game plan.

It was clear Sunday that the plan is under way.

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