Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards had to live and learn throughout their rookie season. So far this season, they seem to have turned the corner and begun to teach defenses they are threats they were drafted to be.
The Raiders improved to 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 2002, and Derek Carr has now thrown for 1,203 passing yards this season — more than a third of those going to Ruggs and Edwards. The duo came through when it mattered the most for the Raiders in their 31-28 overtime victory against the Miami Dolphins, as Edwards led the team in receiving yards (89) with Ruggs right behind him (78).
The vast improvement of the second-year wideouts has been notable. In last year's loss to the Dolphins, Edwards had one catch for 11 yards and Ruggs had no catches on two targets. Within a span of 10 months, those same receivers have become vicious weapons in this Raiders offense.
"I'm always going to be confident in those guys," Head Coach Jon Gruden said. "We were confident on draft day. All they have to do is keep playing and keep taking advantage of their at-bats. Both of those guys had big days today against one of the better secondaries in pro football. The fun thing for me is I see these young guys really coming alive. I see a different look in their eyes. I see a different confidence."
That different confidence was also visible to slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, who had himself another great showing with five receptions, 77 yards and a touchdown. Renfrow has established himself as a leader in the locker room and was very vocal on the development he's seen in his teammates.
"I love Bryan and Henry; it's so much fun watching them play," Renfrow said. "I get to run a route and usually we throw it deep, and I just sit there and watch, and I got the best seat in the house. It's fun being their teammates and watching them develop because they took a lot of criticism from a lot of people last year.
"Watching them work this whole offseason has been cool. And it's just so much fun playing along with those guys because they have so much energy."
"I see a different look in their eyes. I see a different confidence." Jon Gruden
The man that gets the ball to the two receivers also agrees.
Carr dedicated time through the offseason in getting them up to speed for their sophomore seasons, including working out with them at a park in Las Vegas at 6 a.m. before the start of Training Camp.
"I definitely challenged them, and they stepped up," said Carr. "Playing against these corners, that defense. ... The fact they were able to create separation, go up and make huge plays just gives me so much confidence. And it doesn't just happen in games, this confidence started back in camp. ... I'm just so proud of their work ethic because it's showing up during the games."
Ruggs' and Edwards' play will only continue to cause problems for opposing defenses who are realizing that Darren Waller isn't the only player that can be a vertical threat — and apparently they've brought that up to their head coach's attention.
"Now they're starting to demand the ball, so they're starting to get on my nerves a little bit," Gruden said with a big grin on his face.
"But they're going to be a great duo."
View photos from the Raiders' Week 3 matchup against the Miami Dolphins at Allegiant Stadium.