The Raiders will kick off their regular season on Monday Night Football against the Ravens tomorrow. In the meantime, let’s round up a few recent items on the Silver-and-Black:
The 2020 wide receiver draft class was absolutely loaded, and plenty of pundits believed Jerry Jeudy was the cream of the crop. Although no WR had been selected by the time the Raiders were on the board with the No. 12 overall pick, Las Vegas ultimately chose Henry Ruggs over Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. As Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes, there were Jeudy supporters in the Raiders’ war room, but head coach Jon Gruden wanted his own version of Tyreek Hill, and he saw Ruggs as a player who fit that bill.
The Raiders selected DE Arden Key, who was once believed to be a first-round talent, in the third round of the 2018 draft. But the LSU product posted just three sacks in three seasons, and Vegas deemed him surplus to requirements in April. He was quickly scooped up by the 49ers, and he did not mince words when asked about his time with the Raiders. “To be honest, I wanted to get out of there,” Key said (via Jacob Hutchinson of KNBR.com). “I been wanting to get out of there. I wasn’t surprised. I was more happy than surprised. I wish it happened a little earlier but, hey, I got what I wanted and I’m good.” Key went on to say that the Raiders’ defensive scheme was a poor fit for him, and while he did not explicitly say so, it seems he is happy to be away from Gruden.
Count Lamarcus Joyner as another ex-Raider who is happy to be away from the club. The Raiders deployed Joyner — who primarily played safety with the Rams before signing a big-money free agent contract with Vegas — as a nickelback over the past several seasons, and he struggled in that role. The Raiders released him in March, and he signed with the Jets 10 days later. Gang Green will deploy him as single-high safety, and he is pleased with how things turned out. “I’m pretty sure the whole world knows that (I’m happy to be away from the Raiders),” he said. “I made that known. I’m so happy it’s over and I’m here with coach [Robert] Saleh right now” (via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com). Joyner was clear that he didn’t have an issue with Gruden personally.
Ahead of a key Thursday game against the Chargers, the Raiders are set to be without their field-stretching rookie wideout. They placed Henry Ruggs on their reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday.
While the Raiders have not gotten as much from Ruggs statistically as some of the other teams who drafted receivers this year, the Alabama product has helped the team’s offense as a deep threat.
It is not yet known if Ruggs tested positive for the coronavirus or qualifies as a high-risk close contact. Either scenario would, however, give him an opening to play in Week 16. This makes for another setback for the 2020 draft’s top wideout selected. He missed much of Las Vegas’ offseason program after suffering an off-field injury and missed time earlier this season because of a hamstring malady.
Ruggs is averaging 18.0 yards per catch this season, hauling in 23 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns. The coveted prospect has seen low-cost UFA Nelson Agholor operate as Las Vegas’ top outside receiver as of late.
The Raiders also promoted Vic Beasley from their practice squad. The Raiders’ loss to the Colts bumped them back to the “In the Hunt” tier of the AFC playoff picture, placing obvious importance on their Week 15 game against the Bolts.
After aggravating a previous thumb injury in Week 3, Damon Arnette will see his rookie season paused for a while. The Raiders placed the first-round cornerback on IR.
Arnette initially broke his thumb during training camp but landed on it awkwardly against the Patriots last week. As a result, the Raiders will be without a key defensive piece for a while. Arnette underwent thumb surgery this week and will be out at least six weeks.
The suddenly potent Bills passing offense will face a Raiders team ranking 31st in defensive DVOA, though the unit sits 18th in DVOA against the pass through three weeks. The Raiders may also be down rookie cornerback Amik Robertson, who is questionable with a non-coronavirus illness. Arnette has started each of the Raiders’ games this season.
Las Vegas looks also set to be without its other 2020 first-rounder against Buffalo. The Raiders listed Henry Ruggs as doubtful to face the Bills. Ruggs is battling knee and hamstring injuries.
Additionally, the Raiders promoted safety Dallin Leavitt from their practice squad and placed defensive tackle Daniel Ross on IR.
September 25th, 2020 at 4:10pm CST by Sam Robinson
Several teams’ receiving situations remain in flux going into the Sunday leg of Week 3. Here is the latest from the marquee pass-catcher position:
The Saints will continue to be patient with Michael Thomas. The high ankle sprain the All-Pro suffered will keep him out of Sunday night’s game against the Packers. This will mark just Thomas’ second missed game since his 2016 rookie year and will leave Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith as Drew Brees‘ top receivers.
With the Raiders attempting to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2002, they will be without Henry Ruggs. The speed merchant played Monday night but suffered a hamstring injury during Las Vegas’ Thursday practice, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com notes. Ruggs is also dealing with a knee issue, which he aggravated in the first half of Monday’s win.
Ahead of the game of the 2020 season to date, the Chiefs have their No. 2 wide receiver in concussion protocol. Sammy Watkins‘ status is uncertain for Kansas City’s game in Baltimore, and Andy Reid said the seventh-year wideout has encountered a neck problem as well, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. The Chiefs are better insured here than most, with 2019 second-round speedster Mecole Hardman on track to play a bigger role were Watkins to miss time. Watkins left the Chiefs’ Week 2 win early after suffering the head injury.
As the Cardinals look for their first 3-0 start in five years, Kyler Murray will be without one of his top three receivers. Christian Kirk did not practice this week and is out with a groin injury. The third-year wideout has three receptions for 57 yards this season.
The Jets will be without their top receiver Sunday. Jamison Crowder‘s hamstring injury will sideline him for another week. Gang Green already has Denzel Mims on IR and Breshad Perriman out potentially beyond this week, while Crowder replacement Braxton Berrios is questionable to face the Colts.
From Cliff Branch to James Jett to Darrius Heyward-Bey (to name a few of many), the Raiders have been known for their speed affinity for decades. They surprised many by making Henry Ruggs the first wide receiver pick in this draft. Their owner was eyeing the Alabama deep threat for months leading up to the draft. Citing a lack of team speed for the past several years, Mark Davis said he pegged Ruggs as the first-rounder he wanted for six months going into this year’s draft, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). Chosen before Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Ruggs did not eclipse 800 yards in a college season. And he spent time this offseason rehabbing a thigh injury he sustained two months ago while helping a friend move. However, Ruggs said Wednesday he is 100%, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area (on Twitter), as Raiders rookies prepare for the team’s strength and conditioning period.
Here is the latest from the AFC West:
For the first time in five negotiations with franchise-tagged players, Broncos GM John Elway did not close a deal. Justin Simmons will play this season on the safety tag. Elway said discussions never came close to a deal, but the 10th-year GM believed his offer was “very, very fair.” The offer was believed to place Simmons among the five or six highest-paid safeties. Guaranteed money was an issue, however, with Elway noting the pandemic induced the Broncos to limit the guaranteed dollars in their proposal to Simmons (Twitterlinks via 9News’ Mike Klis). Elway, who said late last season Simmons would be a priority, still wants to extend the standout defensive back next year.
The Raiders are beginning their first season in Las Vegas, but the prospects of the NFL moving to Nevada surfaced in January 2016. Davis adds that Vegas was after the Raiders “for years” before those talks began. “We got our ass kicked in L.A., and we went back to Oakland with our tails between our legs. And then (Coliseum Authority executive director Scott) McKibben backtracked and tripled our lease, and it was total disrespect. It was like, how are we going to work with these people?” Davis said. “Vegas had been after us for years, but I told them I will only talk to you if Oakland and Los Angeles don’t happen.” The NFL in 2016 voted to send the Rams to Los Angeles and placed the Chargers ahead of the Raiders in the pecking order. The Raiders then spent three years as a lame-duck team in Oakland.
Chris Jones‘ contract trails both Fletcher Cox‘s 2016 extension ($17.1MM per year) and Grady Jarrett‘s pact in 2019 ($17MM AAV) in terms of two-year payouts, leading Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap to label it a Chiefs-friendly deal. Jones’ four-year, $80MM extension is essentially a two-year deal. The Chiefs, who did this deal without including a signing bonus, would incur no dead money by moving Jones in 2022. Through those two years, Jones will see $37.6MM — which is also well behind Aaron Donald‘s $60MM two-year total.
The Raiders have agreed to terms Henry Ruggs, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Per the terms of his slot at No. 12, the speedy wide receiver will earn $16.67MM on his four-year deal.
Ruggs didn’t put up gaudy numbers in Alabama’s talent-laden offense, but teams were more focused on a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash. That was evident on draft night when he went ahead of Jerry Jeudy, who tallied ~1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns over the last two years. Ruggs, meanwhile, cleared 700 yards in each of his final two seasons.
More importantly, he averaged 17.5 yards per grab over the course of his collegiate career. The 6’0″ receiver projects as a potent deep threat, one that Jon Gruden & Co. could not pass up. Along with Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow, Ruggs figures to give fits to opposing defenses.
This year’s wide receiver draft class was widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. It was so deep, in fact, that teams felt they could secure immediate-impact players on Day 2 and even Day 3 of the draft. Still, a few players separated themselves from their peers and became first-round selections, the cream of a bountiful crop.
The consensus top three talents were Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. It would not have been surprising to see any of those three players taken in the top-10, and ultimately Ruggs came off the board first, going to the Raiders with the No. 12 overall selection.
The Broncos were quite content with that, as they snagged Jeudy – whom they considered trading up for – with the No. 15 pick. Then, although the Cowboys perhaps had more pressing needs, they could not turn down Lamb when he surprisingly fell into their laps at No. 17.
TCU’s Jalen Reagor was the next domino to fall, heading to the Eagles with the No. 21 selection. Reagor was something of a late riser in the process, as he had been mocked as a second- to third-round choice but began garnering attention as a potential first-rounder as we got closer to draft day. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman obviously saw something he liked, and he pounced.
But LSU’s Justin Jefferson, generally considered the fourth-best wideout in the class, didn’t have to wait too much longer to hear his name called. The Vikings took him one pick after Reagor.
All five of those players stand a good chance of becoming difference-makers for their respective clubs, as is the case with any first-round pick. But we would like to know from you which of them you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie.
With Ruggs, the Raiders added a speed merchant whose college production did not match that of Jeudy — his teammate of three years with the Crimson Tide — but who fits the Las Vegas offense nicely. The Raiders added another collegiate wideout, Bryan Edwards, in the third round, and they also took a flier on veteran Nelson Agholor. Still, it appears as if Ruggs has a good chance to start opposite Tyrell Williams, with Hunter Renfrow working the slot. Ruggs is electric with the ball in his hands, and he is not a one-dimensional deep threat; he is a solid route-runner who should only get better with coaching. His recent off-field injury seems to be a non-issue, and he will be a boost to a passing offense that performed better than one might think in 2019.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are building a strong young nucleus of skill position talent, and Jeudy will team with Courtland Sutton to form one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the game. He is a gifted route-runner whose excellent production against SEC defenses jumps off the page — he averaged 72 catches for 1,239 yards and 12 TDs over his final two years in school – and he has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler, whom Denver nabbed in the second round, may get most of the slot reps, but Jeudy will be a threat no matter where he plays.
Though Lamb will have to compete with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, the Cowboys are perfectly capable of moving the ball through the air and will have plenty of opportunities to go around. Lamb should work primarily in the slot, which will mask some of the deficiencies he has as a route-runner and against press coverage. He has terrific hands and tracking ability, and though he may lack top-line speed, he is plenty quick enough to make things happen, and his overall athleticism is off the charts. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which Ezekiel Elliott will surely appreciate.
Due to injuries and under-performance, the Eagles’ WR group provided very little production last year. Veteran DeSean Jackson played just three games in 2019, Alshon Jeffery may start the season on the PUP list, and 2019 second-rounder JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to live up to expectations. Philadelphia tried to trade up for Lamb but was happy to pick up Reagor, whose blazing speed could pair well with Jackson. Though it took a while for his stock to rise, that may have been because the TCU offense didn’t give him the chance to show off his route-running skills, so the more scouts were able to evaluate his tape, the more impressed they became. He struggled with drops from time to time, but with his abilities as a deep target and a YAC monster, he has the potential to be a dynamic pro. On the other hand, there are rumblings that Reagor will be asked to focus on just one position in 2020 and will be the understudy to D-Jax, so he may not get as much immediate PT as we might have expected.
Like the Eagles, the Vikings sorely needed to upgrade their WR corps, and Jefferson steps into a great situation, as Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs earlier in the offseason and did little to replace him. So Jefferson should start opposite Adam Thielen, whose mounting injury history could open up even more opportunities. Like most of the LSU offense, Jefferson was tremendous in 2019, securing 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. He offers an intriguing blend of size and speed, and though he may struggle to create separation in the pros, he has good hands and runs good routes. The Vikings like to run the ball, but Kirk Cousins is a capable QB and Jefferson should see plenty of passes coming his way.
So let’s hear your thoughts. Tell us which of these five players will have the most impact on his team in 2020, and explain your reasoning in the comments.
Tyrell Williams dealt with injuries to both of his feet last season, missing time because of it. The maladies took a while to recover from this offseason, but the veteran Raiders wideout believes he has nearly surmounted the nagging problems.
“Shoot, it’s been a long offseason with my feet,” Williams said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “I did two months after the season of just rehab and resting them. It was still taking a long time and I started getting pretty discouraged, but … um, about two months ago, I finally got over the hump and my feet have been feeling good. I still feel it a little bit, but compared to what I had … it’s nothing compared to what I was going through during the season.”
Williams missed two games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot but said his left foot became a discomfort source after he returned. The second-year Raider then dealt with pain in both feet the rest of the way. Williams still averaged 15.5 yards per catch, but the Raiders drafted two wideouts and a gadget player (Lynn Bowden Jr.) in the first three rounds. The Raiders guaranteed Williams’ $11MM base salary earlier this year, but the ex-Charger has no guaranteed money on his deal beyond 2020.
Here is more injury news from the Raiders’ receiving corps and the latest from the rest of the Wests:
Las Vegas first-round pick Henry Ruggs suffered an injury helping a friend move last month but is expected to be ready for camp. While the Raiders’ newest speed merchant received stitches, he sustained no muscular damage, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Around six weeks remain until rookies report for camps.
The Rams are beginning a new era at running back, having cut five-year starter Todd Gurley. Darrell Hendersonwill be one of the players vying for the starting job. The second-year back, however, underwent ankle surgery this offseason, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets. This issue may be behind him, with Rodrigue adding that Henderson has already participated in multiple Jared Goff-conducted throwing sessions (Twitter link). Henderson, Malcolm Brown and rookie second-rounder Cam Akers represent the top options in Los Angeles’ backfield.
The Broncos‘ backfield has two primary options, but it’s perhaps just as muddled. Given a two-year, $16MM contract, Melvin Gordon is in line to take Phillip Lindsay‘s starting job despite the latter’s back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. New Denver OC Pat Shurmur was said to have pushed for a “bellcow” back like Gordon, but Denver’s new OC denied he did so on Thursday. “I think that (rumor) is a false narrative. I’m all for adding good players at every position. I feel like Phillip Lindsay is an outstanding player who we can hand the ball to, or throw the ball to. The fact that we have two running backs now who can be very explosive with the ball in their hands, whether they throw it or run it, is a good thing,” Shurmur said, via Denver7’s Troy Renck. “You need more than one running back. … The whole ‘pounding the table’ narrative — listen, I’m the new guy here.”
While Lindsay showed promise as a pass catcher at Colorado, Gordon has been more productive as a pro in that area. Gordon’s $8MM-AAV deal and Lindsay’s $750K 2020 base salary would point to the former being ticketed for a change-of-pace role. Shurmur, however, said he envisions formations that will feature both Gordon and Lindsay, Renck tweets.
Raiders first-round pick Henry Ruggs IIIwill be on the mend for a stretch. The former Alabama standout suffered a thigh injury while helping a friend move furniture Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
Ruggs’ father said his son is walking on crutches currently but added that he is “pretty much OK.”
“He was trying to move a trailer or something — move furniture or something — and the trailer just kind of pinned him against a car or a wall or something,” Henry Ruggs Jr. said, via AL.com’s Wesley Sinor. “He’s pretty much OK. I’m about to go out there and see him in a little bit. It was just like a little open wound on his leg, a little incision. Like something had stuck him right there on his thigh a little bit.”
Ruggs is expected to be fine, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore (on Twitter), and with the offseason likely not to feature minicamps, the draft’s top speed merchant may well be ready to participate in training camp. But Ruggs, who is expected to be an immediate Raiders contributor, will be on the shelf for the time being.
Alabama will likely have two receivers drafted in the top 20 Thursday night. The faster of those two talents has generated interest from several teams with mid-first-round selections and clear wideout needs.
The 49ers, Broncos, Raiders and Eagles have contacted Henry Ruggs the most, the ex-Crimson Tide speedster told Ian Rapoport on the RapSheet and Friends Podcast (Twitter link via NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark). The Raiders, 49ers and Broncos pick at Nos. 12, 13 and 15, respectively, while the Eagles possess the No. 21 selection.
Ruggs has sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash speed. While he was not as productive as Jerry Jeudy, there could be a genuine chance he goes off the board before his former teammate. The Jets, who pick 11th, have also expressed interest in Ruggs. But they are believed to be zeroing in on tackles over wideouts. However, if the Dolphins are in play for a tackle, teams with mid-round picks hoping to land one of the coveted top four at the position could be in trouble.
The Raiders and 49ers carry two first-rounders and possess clear receiver needs opposite Tyrell Williams and Deebo Samuel, respectively. A player like Ruggs would make sense for a Broncos team that rosters the 6-foot-4 Courtland Sutton. The Broncos have been linked to a trade-up, but for Jeudy and not Ruggs. As for the Eagles, they have been connected to receivers throughout the pre-draft process. But at this point, it is looking like Philly will have to move up from No. 21 to land Ruggs.