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'Last year is in the past' for Henry Ruggs III heading into his sophomore season

Alexa, play "All Eyez on Me" by 2Pac.

No one on this Raiders roster may have more eyes on them entering this upcoming season than Henry Ruggs III.

The second-year receiver out of Alabama has a lot of expectations to evolve into a top target in the Silver and Black passing attack. The Raiders' top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft has been a topic of conversation for many after a rookie year marred by injury and the complications provided by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite what some people thought were disappointing numbers for the rookie — he finished 11th among NFL rookies in receptions and 9th among NFL rookies in receiving yards — his teammates are still firmly behind Ruggs and were well aware of the great things he did as a rookie that didn't necessarily appear on the stat sheets.

"I think Henry is a great player," said Hunter Renfrow to assorted media on Wednesday. "I thought that last year, y'all didn't see all the things he did for everyone else, opening up the field for everyone else. What he's doing, you can't put a stat on, and what he did last year you can't put a stat on."

Ruggs, still making the adjustment to Las Vegas, is priming himself for a productive sophomore season and has looked fast and fluid as ever during OTAs. Simply put: Ruggs has done everything in his power to get better.

"I can always develop in all areas," Ruggs said Wednesday. "Adding strength, adding versatility, moving around, moving to different positions, running different routes, expanding my route tree and doing different things — finding different ways to help the team out. I'm open to all of it, and I'm excited to learn and do new things for the team."

Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller has also seen a great deal of improvement in Ruggs and knows he can be a great player. Waller says the biggest hurdle Ruggs must now get over is believing in himself and knowing that he is truly the player he's hyped up to be.

"It's tough when you're in this game, and it has so many expectations of you from outside people and the media," Waller said. "I feel like he can can get to a place where he expects it from himself and ... just prove it to himself that he is the player he is now, and he is the player he's going to become. I feel that will take a lot of weight off his shoulders [to] just go out there and have fun.

"He's light out there. He has a great personality, and I'm excited about what I see from him."

Despite the expectations, he's not crying over spilled milk. He stated his rookie season "was a start" and has tunnel vision moving forward.

"Last year is in the past," said Ruggs. "Yes, it was frustrating at times, but like I said, that's in the past. We build on it; it's a fresh start now, and we're going to work to make it better."

Take a look at what Raiders players have been sharing on social media during May.

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