Since Jon Gruden returned as Head Coach of the Raiders, the team has made a conservative effort to get faster on offense, but the Silver and Black have been missing a big-bodied receiver to throw to down in the red zone.
Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, Coach Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock had two receivers they wanted to target according to Derek Carr, Henry Ruggs III, and Bryan Edwards. Carr spent a lot of time watching tape of each before the draft and couldn't help but think of a three-time Pro Bowler when he watched Edwards play.
"Bryan is a very violent route runner and that's a good thing," Carr told reporters Tuesday. "He's very violent, he's very aggressive in his cuts, he reminds me — when the ball is in the air — of [Green Bay Packers wide receiver] Davante [Adams], great ball skills."
Carr spent two seasons with Adams at Fresno State amassing an absurd 38 touchdowns over that span. If anyone knows Adams' play style, it's Carr, and to hear him compare one of his newest weapons to the Packers' star speaks volumes.
"[Edwards] reminds me of that kind of guy, someone who can not only use his physicalness in the route, but also when the ball is in the air," Carr added. "Some of those catches you watch him run, he runs a double post, he runs a fade against Tennessee, he runs a double post at home in South Carolina. Some of these things I watched him do on film before the draft, you could tell this dude is a freak talent, like, 'Why is he not talked about in the first round?'"
Edwards, standing at 6-foot-3 and weight 212 pounds, was selected No. 81 overall by Gruden and Mayock to serve as the physical receiver the Raiders have desperately needed down near the goal line, but offensive coordinator Greg Olson shared that the rookie has the ability and mental capacity to grasp all receiver positions, making him a versatile threat as well. Edwards' role could start as the defacto redzone receiver, but Olson says the coaching staff has more planned for him.
"He's multiple [positions]," Olson said during his Zoom conference Tuesday. "These guys — that's the one thing — Henry Ruggs, we moved him at the Z, but both of them have shown with what we've done in the last couple of days that they're very intelligent players. That's a huge plus for what we want to do offensively. We've asked him to move — we like him as a big guy outside, don't get me wrong — I think he's going to develop into a [great receiver] outside, but he's shown the intelligence to move inside and also the savviness as a route runner to run some of those inside slot routes."
The rookies and the undrafted free agents are facing unprecedented odds as they prepare for the 2020 season. For the first time, they've been forced to learn an entirely new playbook without taking the field with their new teammates, but Edwards says that's played to his advantage.
"The terminology is definitely more complex than it was in college," Edwards said. "So, there's a steep learning curve, but with all the Zoom meetings and things we have to do, it's kind of making it easier just because we spend so much time on the playbook."
Edwards rewrote several University of South Carolina records during his four years there, including Alshon Jeffery's all-time receiving yards record (3,045) and passed Kenny McKinley for most receptions in school history (208).
While a lot of receivers are getting leaner and faster — thanks to Tyreek Hill's impact — Edwards tries to model his game after a couple of future Hall of Famers, Deandre Hopkins, and Julio Jones. He hasn't had the opportunity to reach out to them yet, but given the right opportunity, he will.
"It's not anyone that I've reached out to yet because of the pandemic and the virus, I've been cooped up on Zoom meetings and focusing on the playbook," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to reaching out to guys like Deandre Hopkins and Julio Jones, guys that have that same ability as me and play the game the way I do."
Hopkins and Jones aren't bad examples of players Edwards should strive to be like, but if he wants to get in the ear of one of the league's best receivers, all he has to do is ask Carr for Adams' number, and considering Carr thinks the two are alike, maybe the Raiders' signal-caller will push him to reach out.
Hit the field at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in Henderson, Nev., as the Raiders gear up for another day of workouts.