Wide Receiver Jaydon Mickens
The Oakland Raiders completed their final roster cuts last Saturday, to meet the 53-man requirement. After the rosters are assembled, teams typically bring back players they liked for the practice squad. For those unaware of the importance of a practice squad, the group benefits both the team and the players by serving as the scout defense, enabling the team to prepare for certain matchups.
In recent years, the Raiders have had a couple players climb the roster and make it to the 53-man team, most notably wide receivers Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts, although Holmes was plucked away from the Dallas Cowboys. Holmes and Roberts were both undrafted free agents out of college, but managed to continue growing and enhancing their skills from the practice squad.
Last season the pair combined for 681 yards and nine touchdowns, each of them have established themselves as quality backups to wideouts Amari Cooper and Derek Carr. In 2014 Holmes led the team in receiving yards with 693 yards, a career-best for the receiver.
Now members of the 53-man roster and with important roles on offense, both players have an opportunity to mentor some of the younger players who are where they once stood.
One of the players to receive words of wisdom from Holmes and Roberts is rookie wide receiver Jaydon Mickens. "They give me advice all the time, but it's mainly just to keep your head down and keep grinding," said Mickens. "Stay focused on the little things and be clean with your details, everything else will happen because you're a football player."
After being waived initially by the Raiders, the team decided to bring Mickens back and make him a member of the practice squad. "I was blessed, I just sat there and smiled," added Mickens. In the preseason finale against the Seahawks, he had three receptions for 43 yards, the longest being a 33-yard catch.
Mickens is not one to make excuses, and he's honed in on becoming the best football player he can be. His ultimate goal is to make the 53-man roster at some point and continue his development. "A guy like me, we want that 53, we want to be on that 53-man roster," said Mickens. His desire is to "help this team win, and ultimately get to a Super Bowl."
The practice squad provides players with an opportunity to grow as individuals and players, while benefitting the team. Developing as a unit is the objective, and the drive to constantly progress is clear with this group of young men.