One of the biggest storylines shaping up this Training Camp is how much Henry Ruggs III has improved.
The speedy receiver has a lot of expectations this season. With a year under his belt and the dismissal of Nelson Agholor, the 2020 first-round pick is expected to assume a bigger role in the Raiders offense. Like many of his teammates and the media, Ruggs has put the same high expectations on himself as well.
"I put a lot of weight on my shoulders on not only being a leader, but developing a larger role in the offense and even on the team," said Ruggs. "I feel like myself. I'm motivated to do some big things this year."
Head Coach Jon Gruden was excited to see his future star receiver step back in the building for camp.
"I think I hurt my arm hugging Ruggs when he walked in today," Gruden jokingly told the media Tuesday. "Ruggs got hurt in the first game against Carolina. I think he caught a bomb and then we ran a quick route in Charlotte and he got hurt. Managed to play a little bit against New Orleans, but then he missed the Patriot game. Missed a couple of games when he had COVID. He's a difference maker with his speed. He can beat you bad with his speed."
That same speed Gruden referred to is what quarterback Derek Carr is also banking on from Ruggs down the stretch. He believes that Ruggs is coming into his own, not only with his play but with bulking up this offseason. The receiver told the media Wednesday morning that he gained 13 pounds this offseason and his quarterback has taken notice.
"I think that Henry is getting into that place where I think the feeling is he wants it," Carr said. "He's going to not ask for it, he's just going to show you.
"I think everyone has seen him, he looks bigger. Hopefully I get him to roll his sleeves up a little bit and show his guns off. You can tell the mindset was 'I'm going to go work to be better at what I think I need to be better at.' When he showed back up, the violence in which he was running his routes with, the speed he was coming off the ball with made you go, 'OK!' You could feel it, as [General Manager] Mr. [Mike] Mayock would say, you can feel his speed. You could feel his presence. I think the more he gets comfortable in this offense."
"It's a man's game now, and I'm not the biggest guy but I have to get to where I can compete with grown men now." Henry Ruggs III
A big part of Ruggs' offseason training involved him returning to his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, and training at MadHouse Athletics.
"It's always fun to be back home," Ruggs said. "And with familiar faces, it only makes you work harder because you're having fun. But when you're in a comfortable setting like that, it just makes you want to go even harder and being around a group of guys like that – that push you all the time, that you grew up with, that all have a common goal – it only makes it that much better.
"It's a man's game now, and I'm not the biggest guy but I have to get to where I can compete with grown men now."
One of Mayock's critiques he had about Ruggs' rookie season was his ability to get out of his breaks faster. With the additional muscle mass and strength added, it should benefit Ruggs' game substantially going into his second season.
"Sometimes if I'm blocking, I'm just getting in the way and sometimes I was moved out the way," the receiver said. "I didn't like that personally. So I don't want to be a guy that's just threw around or trying to be in the way."
If Henry Ruggs III takes things personally nearly as hard as Michael Jordan did throughout his career detailed in The Last Dance, opposing defenses will for damn sure be in trouble this upcoming season.
View photos from the Raiders' first practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center during 2021 Training Camp.