Whenever Jon Gruden’s hiring becomes official, an arduous task stands before him. While talented, the receiving corps of the Oakland Raiders needs a mental and physical overhaul. With the draft looming, whether the current group takes the field together in 2018 remains a mystery. With that said, the new head coach must quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses.
Now, this gets sticky rather early. Granted, Crabtree’s numbers paint him as a standout. Yet, two problems cloud these otherwise good stats. First, he drops more passes that he should. Usually these ones halt drives and see him flash wide open. Can Gruden fix that? Possibly. By hiring a string receivers coach to drill technique and concentration drills, Crabtree can make quick amends. To this day, no one is sure how or why Rob Moore kept his job that long.
More importantly, Crabtree’s penchant for drama and perceived selfishness will not endear him to Gruden. If you count the two Talib dustups, and exiting Sunday’s season finale, a problem with emotions exists. When Keyshawn Johnson clashed with Gruden, he deactivated him, ending his run in Tampa. Johnson helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl. Therefore, you can imagine how quickly Crabtree’s attitude would not be tolerated. In his defense, Crabtree excels on the field. A smarter play could see the raiders deal Crabtree for picks.
In contrast to Crabtree, Cooper’s best days sit in front of him. When the season kicks off, Cooper will be 24. Nowhere near is his prime, loaded with lead receiver skills, Cooper the future. Yet, his penchant for disappearing and drops make him an enigma. Some postulated that Carr’s occasional inaccuracy lead to Cooper’s decline. Instead, some of the responsibility must fall his way. No quarterback will throw consistently perfect passes. If Cooper wants that high-dollar extension, 2018 must serve as his wakeup call.
If you look at no other 2017 film, rewind the first Chiefs game and the touchdowns versus the Chargers and Eagles. Amari Cooper can be an 85-catch, 1100-yard, 10n touchdown receiver for the next eight seasons. His problems appear mental in nature. Drops and frustration render him useless in the offense. If the Raiders show Crabtree the door, Cooper needs to fill the lead role.
Within RaiderNation, no player exemplifies the teeth-gnashing anger of the fanbase than Roberts. For every stellar catch, flurries of misplays counter it. Immediately, drops bubble to the surface. How many times can the Raiders begin a drive, Roberts beats his man, only to see the ball rattle off his hands? Although his catch percentage rose in 2017, that lone touchdown indicates that he should not serve as the third receiver.
Equally important to the drops, Roberts commits penalties at an alarming rate for a wide. Since 2015, Roberts accrued fourteen flags. Within those are penalties for false starts (six) and illegal blocks (four). Nothing kills momentum than seeing a big play nullified by careless and unnecessary penalties. Gruden, like most coaches appreciate aggressive but smart receivers. Roberts’ job may not be safe.
Eventually, a coach will consistently use Patterson. No current Raiders receiver possesses the diverse skill set. From jet sweeps to draws to vertical patterns, Patterson presents matchup issues for defenses. Under Gruden, he could blossom into a multi-faceted threat. Patterson’s only problems in Oakland were a lack of snaps and Seth Roberts slotted ahead of him.
In reality, Jon Gruden will put his handprint on the wide receiver corps. What that looks like is anyone’s guess. However, given that talent already exists, with tinkering and actual coaching, the Raiders could field a potent group.