Over the weekend Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden sent a message to wide receiver Martavis Bryant, stating that the 26 year old needed to simply play better.
Consider that message received.
In the Raiders’ first joint practice with the Detroit Lions Tuesday, Bryant was putting defenders on skates, leaving them in the dust, and overall just being more physical than his opponents.
On one play in particular, Bryant lined up one-on-one with a Lions cornerback, stunned him with a hesitation move, cut inside, then sped upfield after hauling in a pass courtesy of Derek Carr, and eventually hit his defender with a stiff arm just to put the icing on the cake.
These are the plays he’s capable of making on a regular basis, and his quarterback knows it.
“He [Bryant] has a different kind of speed,” Carr said following practice Tuesday. "There’s certain ways that I throw certain guys passes that I would never throw it like that to him, because you have to treat him different. He is one of those guys that, man, you just let him run. Whatever course he’s on, let him stay on that course. It’s different with a guy like that.”
Bryant’s blazing speed and size create problems for any defensive back, and when he fully grasps Gruden’s offense, his game will only elevate to another level.
“Just his level from when he got here to where he is now, he’s really picked it up, he has,” Carr said. “You can definitely tell that he has a sense of urgency for him to pick things up and learn them. He wants to do right, he really does. To see that in him, to see him continue, he always practices hard, that’s never a question. He’s going to practice hard. And usually that’s the hardest part to get someone to practice hard, but he is. No problem practicing hard and going hard. In the film room and in the playbook is where he’s really working hard and he’s gotten a lot better.”
To Carr’s point, Bryant joined the team in late April, a little later than most of his new teammates, and hasn’t been given as much time to immerse himself into the playbook, which will come with more reps on the field.
During the former Clemson Tiger’s four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he totaled 1,917 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns, and 126 receptions. While Bryant may have been suspended for the entirety of the 2016 season, those days are behind him, and he’s focused on a fresh start with the Silver and Black.
I’m genuinely excited to watch Bryant line up next to Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper this year, and the expectation is that the trio can accomplish big things together. The three will certainly be put to the test come Week 1 when they face a stout Los Angeles Rams secondary that features the likes of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, but let’s not get too far ahead.
For now, Bryant and Co., will continue perfecting Gruden’s offense and building chemistry with Carr.
He might not see extensive playing time this Friday when the Raiders host the Detroit Lions at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their first preseason game of the year, but I’m sure he’ll get a few snaps in, and I can’t wait to see what he does with them.
Keep an eye out as Bryant progresses with the Silver and Black, especially throughout the preseason.