The Oakland Raiders receiving corps has been decimated by injuries this season. In the last eight days, Martavis Bryant, Jordy Nelson, and Brandon LaFell have all sustained injuries. Martavis Bryant still doesn't have a timetable for his return, but Jordy Nelson seems to be recovering quickly; however, LaFell will miss the rest of the 2018 season with a torn Achilles. The continuity at the wide receiver position has been a problem for the Raiders this year, and lately the team has needed to ask more from its rookie class.
In Week 11, the offense called upon rookie wideouts Marcell Ateman and Speed Blacknall to try and fill the void, and the duo didn't do bad in their NFL debuts. Ateman down the stretch came up with a clutch catch on the team's final drive to help set up the game-winning field goal.
With LaFell suffering a season-ending injury, the Raiders placed him on the Reserve/Injured List Monday, and signed Keon Hatcher to the active roster from the Green Bay Packers' practice squad in a corresponding move. You may remember Hatcher from earlier in 2018, as he finished the preseason with a strong performance against the Seattle Seahawks. Hatcher finished the preseason finale with eight catches for 128 receiving yards, and three touchdowns.
That said, following his big performance, the Raiders and Hatcher parted ways. The team had a wealth of talented wide receivers at the time, and the decision to part ways with the former University of Arkansas Razorback was one he understood.
"Sort of kind of, but it's a business, I really wasn't trippin' that hard about it," said Hatcher Monday. "I was thankful the opportunity, man. Any time you get an opportunity to play this game it's a blessing, so just thankful, man."
Hatcher has spent a majority of the season on the Green Bay Packers practice squad, and even though he enjoyed his time there, he's happy to return to Oakland.
"This is like my second home, it's the first team I ever played for, and yeah I definitely kept a close eye on everything, and checked in on the boys to see how everything was going," he explained. "I know everything isn't looking up right now, but I'm glad to be back. Definitely thankful for the opportunity again."
Hatcher has spent a good amount of time building a rapport with Derek Carr, and it's because of the reps they've had together he's confident in his ability to contribute quickly for an injury-plagued Raiders receiving corps.
"I feel like Derek has some trust in me, he knows I can catch the ball," Hatcher said. "He knows I'm going to be supposed to be where I'm supposed to be, when I'm supposed to be there, so it's about repetition. Getting back out there, throwing and catching the ball, and just going and making plays."
Going forward, the Raiders are going to rely a lot on the production of the young wide receivers, and hopefully Hatcher can replicate the same success he displayed during the preseason finale. He'll have a full week of practice to get prepared for this Sunday's game in Baltimore.