The Raiders selected WR Juron Criner, out of the University of Arizona, in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The rookie wideout, who grew up in Las Vegas, finished his career at Arizona with 209 receptions for 2,859 yards and 32 touchdowns. Criner didn’t decide to stick with football, however, until his senior year of high school.
“I was still choosing between basketball and football, but there was a basketball game where I really hurt my back and I thought it was going to be the end of me playing sports, period,” explained Criner. “So at that moment, I realized that I couldn’t continue to do both, so I had to make some choices and it was football all the way.”
It was a good choice for Criner who set Arizona’s career record in touchdown receptions, which also tied for second in Pac-12 Conference history. The offense Criner was used to at Arizona is much different than what he has seen so far with the Raiders. “It was very different coming from a spread offense where we pass the ball more than we run the ball,” said Criner. “Here, we have a pretty balanced pass/run attack so it’s just less balls in the air, but that just means more focus every time you get a pass your way. That means you have to make a play.”
Despite the much different style of offense, Criner’s time working with Arizona’s QB Nick Foles, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, helped him understand the importance of chemistry in an offense. “He was a great guy, real vocal leader,” said Criner. “I was more of a lead by example type of guy, so with us, we were Batman and Robin basically because we had great chemistry. He would look at me a certain way and I would automatically know what he was thinking.”
The 6’3”, 221-pound rookie models his game after the big receivers in the NFL. “I would describe my style of play modeled after all the big receivers, such as Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, the Calvin Johnsons,” said Criner. “As a bigger receiver, not the fastest on the field, obviously we have to do the other things better such as being a red zone threat, being able to go up and get the jump balls and come down with the 50/50 ball situation.”
Criner will use training camp as his opportunity to showcase his big receiver abilities. His biggest challenge thus far has been quickly transferring what he learns in the classroom to the field. “I would say my biggest challenge was how quickly I needed to apply information,” said Criner. “In college, you’re able to watch film every day and have a whole week to practice different things and different scenarios. But here, they just give you a playbook and a whole install and expect you to know all the plays and where you need to be, where you need to line up and what you need to do.”
Criner has made it through the NFL Draft, mini-camps, organized team activities, and now faces the daily grind of training camp. His skills and talents will be on display for the Raider Nation in a game situation when the Raiders face the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, August 13, 2012, at O.co Coliseum.