Las Vegas Raiders roster review: Wide receivers

If there was one position group for the Las Vegas Raiders that went through the most change over the course of the NFL’s first 18-week regular season, the wide receivers are at or near the top.

After losing Henry Ruggs, who caught two touchdowns in seven games before a situation off the field led to his release and tight end Darren Waller was hurt during the season in addition to issues in the run game early on, the wide receivers’ room was heavily relied on in the passing game as the depth was being tested each week.

“We had to pick up the slack of the guys we were missing, and I feel like it was a constant rotation with all the adversity we were facing,” wide receiver Bryan Edwards said a day after Las Vegas lost 26-19 to the Cincinnati Bengals. “We did the best with what we had, and I really felt everyone in the room was forced to grow, especially me and Hunter (Renfrow), and you see the results that came with it.”  

Las Vegas Raiders WR’s speaking about their season

Today, we take a look back at the Raiders wide receivers.

Las Vegas Raiders’ top wide receiver – Hunter Renfrow

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

Following Ruggs’ release and Waller’s leg injury, the question was which player, or players, were going to step up amongst the receivers.

One of those players that emerged was Hunter Renfrow, who recorded 1,038 receiving yards, which was his first career 1,000-yard season. Renfrow became the first Raider to record a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2016 when both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree reached quadruple digits.

Renfrow, who played every Raiders game this season, only recorded five games where he caught four or fewer passes and only recorded two games where he totaled four or fewer targets.

In total, the Clemson alumnus recorded 103 receptions during the regular season. Renfrow came one catch short of tying Tim Brown’s franchise record 104 receptions in a single season, which came in 1997.

Ultimately, Renfrow became the third Raider in franchise history to record more than 100 receptions in a season, only trailing Brown and Waller, who caught 107 passes a season ago.

The 5-foot-11 receiver caught 80.5% of his passes thrown to him, which is higher than Waller and Brown’s respective catch percentages during their 100-plus reception seasons.

Renfrow, who recorded three games of more than 100 receiving yards in three consecutive weeks, will enter the final year of his four-year contract next season and once again is expected to be a difference-maker in the offense next year.

Zay Jones

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

The other Raider that stepped up following Ruggs and Waller’s absences was Zay Jones, who was heavily supported by his work ethic and diligence from quarterback Derek Carr going back to training camp in August.

Jones would give the Raiders and its fans the first magical moment of the season in the fans’ first game inside Allegiant Stadium.

The 6-foot-2 receiver caught a pop-up pass from Carr, who faced an all-out blitz, and ran it in for a touchdown for an overtime victory on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens to kick off the season.  

Prior to the Las Vegas bye week, Jones caught six of seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Following the one-week break, the 26-year-old broke out in the second half, recording 41 receptions on 63 targets for 404 yards to end the regular season, including recording season-highs with eight receptions on 10 targets for 120 yards to keep the Raiders’ playoff hopes alive in the 23-20 victory at Indianapolis.

Jones, who was a former second-round pick by Buffalo in 2017, will enter free agency this spring. A lot of free agent decisions, such as Jones’ possible return, will come down to who the new general manager, head coach and coaching staff will be.  

Bryan Edwards

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

Bryan Edwards entered the 2021 season following a rookie year where he played 15 games and saw either one or two receptions per game in 2020, similar to numbers Jones had to start this year.

However, the 2020 third-round pick saw an increase in targets this year as Edwards recorded 34 receptions on 59 targets for 571 yards and three touchdowns.

In two of the team’s first three games, Edwards recorded five targets each against Baltimore and Miami while recording 81 and 89 receiving yards, respectfully.

Despite averaging 16.8 yards per catch in 2021, Edwards did not receive the same type of volume compared to Renfrow. But Edwards was there when Carr needed him the most.

Against Cleveland, Edwards got an opening-drive touchdown against the Browns to fuel the Raiders to victory and sparked the four-game winning streak to clinch a spot in the postseason.

Following Las Vegas’ AFC Wild Card loss to Cincinnati, Edwards said his individual goal is to remain who he is, both on and off the football field.

“For me, it’s continue what I’m doing,” Edwards said. “Continue to be the player I am, continue to grow as a person, both on and off the field and continue to give my all to this game. I know good things will come from it.

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Bryan Edwards speaking about his goals

Edwards has two years remaining on his rookie contract before free agency in 2024 and is expected to be relied upon more entering his third NFL season.

DeSean Jackson

Following Ruggs’ release, DeSean Jackson came in to fill the void as the Las Vegas Raiders’ deep-threat receiver downfield.

Just days after getting released by the Los Angeles Rams, Las Vegas picked Jackson up once he cleared waivers and immediately started to integrate himself amongst his new coaches and teammates.

As a Raider, Jackson’s first game came against Kansas City on Nov. 14 where he recorded a long 38-yard pass in the redzone, before fumbling the ball a split-second later near a Chiefs defender.   

During the regular season, the 13-year NFL veteran recorded 12 receptions on 19 targets for 233 yards and a touchdown across 10 games.

That touchdown went for 56 yards on the team’s opening drive and it was seen on national television when Las Vegas faced the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, en route to a 36-33 overtime victory for the Silver and Black.

Jackson, who has competed in three Pro Bowls, was also able to come in and give advice to younger players, such as Renfrow, Jones and Edwards.

The 5-foot-10 receiver will enter his age-36 season in 2022 and as a free agent this spring, Jackson will want to go to a team that fits his needs as a veteran presence and can make the playoffs.  

 Up next: Las Vegas Raiders tight ends

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