A season ago, 18 Oakland Raiders registered a catch.
From the obvious parties like Jalen Richard and Jared Cook, to those a little more surprising like Keith Smith – and even Derek Carr himself – when all was said and done, nearly 20 members of the Silver and Black came down with a pass in some form or fashion in 2018.
Now, that number shows a few things, but one of the big ones is that a good wide receiving corps is a deep one.
Whether it be because of injury, scheme, or some combination of the two, a quality offense needs multiple guys who can catch the ball over the course of a 16-game regular season, and the best way to make sure players are ready whenever their name is called is to get them reps in training camp.
Well, now over a week into training camp, the Silver and Black's wide receivers – from top to bottom – have had a chance to get those reps, making the most out of Antonio Brown's absence from the practice field.
"Tyrell Williams has been very good here," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "I mean he's made some big plays at multiple positions and he's showed great stamina, so he's been outstanding. And Darren Waller's been really good. Really, really good, so we are really fired up to talk about those two guys. They've stood out the most and we are starting to see others like Marcell Ateman make some plays and my young friend from the Arizona Cardinals, J.J. Nelson, is starting to make some plays in many different situations, so that's good. And Derek [Carr] has done a great job distributing the ball."
As Gruden stated, both Williams and Ateman have had very strong starts to camp, and it seems like each practice, their respective numbers are called at a high clip.
Williams in particular – now in his fifth NFL season – has quietly gone about his business in Napa and showed that he has the ability to consistently get open and make himself available to Carr and the Raiders quarterbacks.
That said, when asked about Brown's absence – he has not yet practiced in full since the start of training camp – Gruden did acknowledge that he and the rest of the staff are eagerly waiting No. 84's return to work.
"I mean I think we're all disappointed," Gruden said when asked about Brown. "We think he's disappointed. We'd like to get the party started. We'd like to get him out here. He's a big part of this team, but in the time being we're going to continue to work hard and we've seen the development of some other receivers we are excited about."
He added, "I want the guy [Brown] out here as soon as possible. I'd like him to never leave and stay in the huddle every play, but life goes on and you got to continue to work. Other guys got to take advantage of these opportunities and so far they have."
At this juncture, is there reason to be concerned that AB has not yet practiced in full? I don't think so – the team is still a week away from opening up the preseason after all – but while he's recovering, Gruden and his staff have to be happy with the depth they've seen from the wide receivers up and down the roster.
-Gruden also gave a brief injury update Friday, sharing that both Gabe Wright and Eddie Vanderdoes should hopefully be back to work within the next week or two. Wright is dealing with a tweaked knee, and Vanderdoes suffered a concussion earlier in training camp.
-One of the great things about all the practice time during training camp is it gives teams the ability to work on situational football. Such was the case Friday, when the team worked on Hail Mary drills, both offensively and defensively.
-Coach Gruden was once again his high-energy self Friday morning, staying vocal and encouraging the guys throughout the two-and-a-half-hour session. No camp fatigue for Coach.
-If I've said it once, I've said it a million times – Dwayne "Gucci" Harris never gets enough credit for his wide receiving skills. Thought of primarily as a return man – and a pretty good one at that – Harris once again showed off a little somethin' somethin' during one-one-drills against the Raiders defensive backs, getting open and hauling in a nice pass before turning up field.
-That said, Harris' rep aside, I thought the Silver and Black's defensive backs looked really good in their one-on-one session today. Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley have both had quality starts to training camp, but rookie Trayvon Mullen is a guy who has been a pleasant surprise for me as well. You best believe I'm excited to watch that trio – along with the rest of the Raiders DBs – go to work against the Los Angeles Rams staring Wednesday.
-I mentioned him a little bit earlier in the notebook, but Marcell Ateman had another big day Friday. Whether it's during the seven-on-seven periods or when the team is going 11-on-11, the second-year wideout just seems to have a knack for hauling in passes, and that was the case once again Friday.
-After A.J. Cole handled the punting duties Thursday, today was Johnny Townsend's turn. The Raiders incumbent punter enjoyed a quality day with his kicks, and after Cole had a big day yesterday, I fully expect their competition to carry on throughout the month of August.
-For those of you who are musically inclined, rapper G-Eazy made an appearance today at practice. Mr. Eazy spent some time on the sidelines taking in the action before meeting Coach Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock and then receiving a custom jersey from fellow MC Maxx Crosby. Thanks for stopping by, Gerald.
Coach Gruden discussing rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby:
"He's done great. He's a guy that has really gotten stronger. He really likes the training table in there and the 10 o'clock snack. We've encouraged him to eat and take those supplements to get stronger and heavier. He can play left end, he can play right end, he has an incredible motor. He wins the gassers too at the end of practice. That's a great ingredient to have, effort. He's working on his repertoire. [Defensive line coach] Brent Buckner's a heck of a coach and we're seeing some improvement."
Tweet of the Day:
We've entered the dog days, ladies and gentlemen.
The Silver and Black practice Saturday and Sunday before their next league-mandated off day Monday.