Once the hype has faded, football games are played and draft selections take the field. Week 1 saw the Las Vegas Raiders start a couple of first-year players, one on offense and one on defense. Even though it’s too early to tell how their careers will play out, we can definitely check how they performed in their NFL debut.
The Raiders started two rookies and another saw plenty of snaps
The Raiders had two first-round selections in this year’s draft. They chose wide receiver Henry Ruggs III with the 12th overall pick and later picked cornerback Damon Arnette with the 19th overall. Teams normally expect immediate results from their high picks, which means they will see the field early. Similarly, it doesn’t look good when an early draft selection is on the bench. Fortunately for the Raiders, that wasn’t the case with Arnette and Ruggs.
Ruggs played 47 snaps on offense and had three catches on five targets for 55 yards. One of those was a 45-yard shot that displayed the kind of playmaking prowess that made him one of the top players in this year’s draft. Also, he received a 63.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus and quarterback Derek Carr had a 97.9 passer rating in throws to him. The Raiders Week 1 matchup showed glimpses of what the Alabama standout can do, so expect the Raiders to keep targeting him.
On the other end, we have Arnette. The Ohio State product allowed four passes in five targets and 110 yards. Although that is not upper-echelon production, it isn’t something fans need to worry about. Not all players are the same and it takes more time for some to adjust to the NFL. The Panthers knew that between Arnette and Trayvon Mullen, Arnette had less experience. The ex-Buckeye should recover fine from this one and see it as a learning moment.
Besides Ruggs and Arnette, there was another rookie that saw the field often for the Raiders. Third-round wide receiver Bryan Edwards also played in Week 1 and had one catch for nine yards. That might not seem like much, but that’s only half of the story. The South Carolina product played 47 seven snaps or five more than Ruggs. If he didn’t get more catches, it could have been because Carr found more favorable matchups. Edwards could see more targets in Week 2 if he keeps playing the same number of snaps.
The Raiders have a solid offensive core, so they don’t have to force the ball to Ruggs and Edwards. It’s just a matter of time for Ruggs and Edwards to break out. By the same token, Arnette could take a step back with Nevin Lawson back from his one-game suspension. If Arnette indeed gets fewer snaps, it won’t be because he’s a bad player. Rather, it means that the Raiders want to be smart and don’t put too much pressure on him.
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*Top Photo: John Locher Associated Press