As the Las Vegas Raiders recently announced, Henry Ruggs III will be predominantly taking reps at Hunter Renfrow’s position. While this is exciting to see Ruggs working his way into a starting spot before the season is close to the beginning, it leaves much uncertainty for Renfrow’s future.
During his rookie season, Renfrow established himself as one of Derek Carr’s favorite third-down targets. Renfrow very quickly won the hearts of fans and teammates alike. He was by no means perfect and had to work through a few drops throughout the season, but it was assumed he would improve past them. Now, it appears he might not get the chance.
Due to his size (5’10”), Renfrow most likely will not get looks at the outside, receiver position. However, even if he were taller, the Raiders currently have a receiver room overflowing with talent. Renfrow certainly exhibited enough talent last season to avoid losing his roster spot as a whole, but whatever he has done, Ruggs has apparently already done more.
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While it can be difficult to watch a fan-favorite lose his job, fans must remember that the best player plays. Highlight videos and “Third-and-Renfrow” cheers are fun, but if all emotions attached to Renfrow are removed, Ruggs earning a starting spot over him could become a no-brainer.
This is the problem fans face. They drift in the hype of a player without acknowledging his skill. While Renfrow has made impressive, explosive plays, Ruggs is simply better for the team. Again, expect Renfrow to be with the team throughout the year, and reports of him scratching and clawing for reps in-game or simply in practice will soon arise.
Renfrow would potentially see the field on passing downs where the Raiders want to spread the field, but as far as starting spots go, Renfrow simply is not there. It is certainly strange to say, especially after stirring up so much excitement during his time with the team, but Renfrow’s expectations for the season must be plummeting.
The biggest thing Renfrow has going for him now is the trust and chemistry he has established with Carr. Should the combination still hold strong, Renfrow could still see himself on the field for clutch situations. However, Ruggs could also find himself building rapport with Carr, thus eliminating that aspect of Renfrow’s game. Renfrow also possesses an impressive work ethic and athleticism. Coach Jon Gruden is a crafty man. If there is a spot for Renfrow to grow Gruden would be the one to find it.