For a while.
And that it pays to have a quarterback who is willing — and able — to extend plays with his legs. Having a track team as a receiving corps helps, too.
Sure, Derek Carr is coming off career highs in passing yards (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4%). And, as his supporters are quick to point out, imagine if he had more explosive weapons around him as he prepares to enter, for the first time in his career, the same offensive system for the third straight season … even with those nagging Tom Brady rumors not subsiding anytime soon.
The Carr fans have a point, to a point. Because after Antonio Brown’s training-camp implosion led to his release days before the season opener, the Raiders’ offense in general — the wideouts in particular — were in disarray.
Consider: Raiders’ wideouts combined for just 145 catches this season, or four fewer than Michael Thomas had by himself for the New Orleans Saints. In fact, the 145 receptions ranked 30th among all WR groups.
Their combined 1,858 receiving yards ranked 29th, their 12 receiving touchdowns (one more than Detroit’s Kenny Golladay) were tied for 23rd and their 86 first downs were 31st in the 32-team NFL.
It gets worse.
The Raiders wideouts’ 6.0% drop rate was the worst in the NFL, as were their nine catches on throws of 20-plus air yards, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Plus, NFL Next Gen Stats had Raiders receivers with just nine catches on tight-window throws (1 yard or less of separation), also fewest in the league.
Tyrell Williams, signed to be Brown’s deep-threat sidekick, was elevated to WR1, and after a quick start — a TD catch in each of his first five games — foot issues and a bad case of the dropsies betrayed him. He finished with 42 catches for 651 yards and six scores.
Rookie Hunter Renfrow (49-605-4) became a late-season revelation with 13 catches for 209 yards and two TDs in two games after returning from a rib injury suffered at the New York Jets in Week 12. But he, too, is more of a threat from the slot than on the outside.
The other wideouts who finished the season for the Raiders — Zay Jones (20-147-0), Keelan Doss (11-133-0) and Rico Gafford (2-66-1) — combined for 33 catches and 346 yards and one TD. That’s not going to throw a scare into many teams, let alone the champion Chiefs.
Even if Raiders receivers did average 5.1 yards after the catch, fifth best in the NFL.
So what do the Raiders do not only to give Carr, assuming he is the quarterback next season, a weapon at WR1, but to close the receiver gap with Kansas City?
Because while Chiefs wideouts had 39 catches of at least 20 yards (ninth most in the NFL), Raiders receivers had 26 such catches (tied for 27th).
And Chiefs WRs averaged 5.8 yards after the catch, third in the NFL, two spots ahead of the Raiders.
Carr acknowledged that, as a competitor, it was hard to not want to match throw for throw with Mahomes. It would have helped had Carr had the speedy likes of Tyreek Hill or Sammy Watkins running routes.
Thank goodness, then, for the emergence of tight end Darren Waller, who played the last three games with an injured left thumb that required surgery the day after the season finale. He still finished with 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three scores.
Still, this is about filling the biggest hole in the Raiders’ offense.
The Raiders have five draft picks in the top 91 selections, including Nos. 12 and 19, and could perhaps target Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb. But Raiders general manager Mike Mayock might be leery of entrusting such a lofty status on a rookie.
With an estimated $54 million in salary-cap room, the Raiders could make a move in free agency. The two potential big names include a familiar name — Amari Cooper — and A.J. Green. Others include Larry Fitzgerald, Robby Anderson, Emmanuel Sanders, Breshad Perriman, Demaryius Thomas, Nelson Agholor, Josh Gordon, Randall Cobb, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Demarcus Robinson and Phillip Dorsett.
Anyone float your boat?
“We have to do … a better job of supporting [Carr] with some more wide receiver talent,” Mayock told Raiders.com recently, “the ability to catch the football, the ability to spread the ball around a little bit.”
Sounds like a plan … to compete with the Chiefs.