WR Brice Butler has come on lately and had a strong performance in the Raiders preseason opener.
During the offseason the Oakland Raiders organization set about upgrading several position groups. Perhaps one of the most drastic makeovers concerns the wide receivers. Twelve players make up the receiving corps at the moment, although it's not the same 12 that started training camp three-and-a-half weeks ago.
The group is also down a body right now with Andre Holmes out with what published reports described as a fractured hand. Rod Streater began camp on the Non-Football Illness list and finally made his way onto the practice field a few days ago.
Veteran Michael Crabtree was signed as a free agent April 13, and Amari Cooper was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft a few weeks later. Kris Durham came over from the Tennessee Titans in early June, and several younger players were added as well.
The competition has been intense.
In the team's preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams, not one wide receiver dropped a pass. Wide receivers accounted for 19 of the team's 23 completions.
Quarterback Derek Carr likes what he sees from the group in practice and in game situations."These guys have been working their tails off. There's not one guy out there that we say, 'I don't know about that guy.' Whenever they got on the field, all of them can make plays," Carr said. "They all bring something different, whether that's the route-running ability, the deep-ball skills, them catching it and what they do after the catch, they all have something different. It's a battle. It's going to be up to the coaches and Mr. [General Manager Reggie] McKenzie to decide who fits where and what they want."
Kenbrell Thompkins has been impressive throughout the offseason and training camp. He has been enjoying the benefits of being with the team throughout OTAs and minicamps.
"I'm just trying to compete, having fun out there, trying to work on my game, and get better each and every day," Thompkins said. "I think it's awesome because you get in the swing of things, you get to see how things run with the coaching staff, and get used to the players, it's good to build these friendships with these great guys."
Thompkins has an interesting perspective on the competition.
"I don't really think it's a battle. We're all out there trying to compete. We can't control the last say-so," Thompkins said. "We're all out there competing, trying to get each other better, trying to push each other, feed off each other. I think we all bring something different to the table."
Brice Butler put together a good performance Friday night catching yet another preseason touchdown pass from quarterback Matt McGloin. He feels similarly to Thompkins about the competition.
"It's a competitive room, only thing you can think about is what you can control, I learned that in college," Butler said. "It's fun, the room is real loose. I can't explain it. We get coached hard but at the same time it's loose. We got really good ability and talent in the room and it just raises the bar for everybody. Everybody wants to make the team and everybody is playing really well."
Seth Roberts is one of those younger players fighting for a roster spot. He caught four passes for 42 yards against the Rams Friday night. He credits offseason work put in away from the Raiders facility with the comfort level with the other wide receivers and the quarterbacks.
"I'm just feeling more comfortable, it has a lot to do with our coaching and just feeling more comfortable. In the offseason we all met up at [Derek Carr's] crib in Bakersfield, I feel like that helped out camaraderie, the team chemistry is a lot better. We feel like family. We have fun in meetings but we still keep working and stay focused."
Although he's making plays, he's not satisfied with the product he's putting on the field
"I'm still not satisfied, I'm just taking a day at a time," Roberts said. "This Saturday, I'm going to act like nothing happened and that I have something to prove."
Streater may be a little late to the dance, but he knows he faces stiff competition after his layoff due to illness.
"It's exciting, man," Streater said. "It pushes me harder to come back and it's exciting to see them work hard in this offense and be successful. It's just a good group of receivers."
Losing Holmes and getting Streater back changes the dynamic somewhat. The Raiders added Devin Wylie after waiving Austin Willis. Major questions remain.
How many receivers will the Raiders keep going into the regular season? Will the kick and/or punt returner(s) come from this group? One preseason game does not a roster make. But if the Rams game is any indication, this may be the toughest group to decide come cut down day.