The Las Vegas Raiders needed help at wide receiver and they got it with Henry Ruggs III. The concern is whether the coaching staff will put him in a position to succeed.
The inaugural season for the Raiders in their new home will be a “prove it” year for incumbent starting quarterback Derek Carr. In past seasons, the critique by Carr apologists was that he didn’t have enough talent around him. During last month’s draft, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock fixed that and added weapons, in particular Ruggs.
Despite the recent talent upgrades and the return of standouts from last year, there’s doubt Carr will be able to make use of Ruggs. Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus recently took a look at all the rookie 2020 NFL wide receivers and cast doubt about Ruggs.
“The worry with Ruggs isn’t whether he will see the field, but rather will he be put in a position to succeed? He goes to a quarterback in Derek Carr who targeted deep routes at the fifth-lowest rate of any starter in the NFL.”
Stretching The Field
The criticism of Carr when it comes to targeted deep routes is warranted. The numbers don’t lie. The problem there is that Carr plays in head coach Jon Gruden’s conservative dink-and-dunk offense. Also, in Carr’s defense, who exactly has he had to pose that deep threat? Antonio Brown was going to be that, but we know how that worked out. With Ruggs, the Raiders have an opportunity to mold the wide receiver in any way they see fit. They can exploit his speed to scare defenses: Make them be accountable at all times, which will translate into opportunities for others. He might not get 1,000 yards receiving in his rookie year but his speed, or rather the threat his speed poses, will have an exponential impact on the Raiders offense.
When targeting receivers last season, his average depth of target was only 10.3 yards downfield (fifth-lowest in NFL). That number was 10.2 in 2018, as well (lowest in NFL). You can make a chicken or the egg argument, but the place where Ruggs’ speed is most dangerous hasn’t been in his new quarterback’s wheelhouse.
Criticism of Carr and Gruden aside, Ruggs’ speed will open up the Raiders passing attack, it has to. The talent is now in place for Gruden to open up the playbook a little more.
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*Top Photo: Butch Dill/Associated Press