Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III will need to break out this year so he may live up to his lofty expectations.
Following their inaugural season in Las Vegas that ended in a late-season collapse, Year 2 needs to go differently. As a side note, in case you forgot, the 2019 season also ended in a similar fashion. In response, the Raiders’ brass moved quickly this offseason to shore up several key positions. Among those positions, was wide receiver. The organization moved on from Nelson Agholor (or rather Agholor moved on, depending on who you ask) and John Brown was brought in as a de-facto replacement. Nevertheless, you could also argue that by letting Agholor go, the Raiders believe Ruggs is their ‘guy.’
The time is now for the Raiders wide receiver…
If there’s a time to show up and shine for Ruggs, it’s now. He was the first wide receiver picked in the 2020 NFL draft ahead of Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. The decision was almost immediately questioned among NFL circles. However, the speed and highlights from his college days are partly evidence he was worthy of the selection. The real elephant in the room was whether head coach Jon Gruden would utilize Ruggs effectively.
If we look back at last season, it’s clear to see that his usage was underwhelming. Ruggs ended the season with 26 receptions, 452 yards, and two touchdowns but he did average 17.4 yards a catch. That state line would be befitting of the team’s third, maybe, fourth option. Unfortunately, that’s not acceptable for someone who was taken with the 12th overall pick and the first receiver off the board. Especially in a receiver class as stacked as last year’s. Yes, there were injuries that hampered Ruggs throughout the season, a legitimate excuse.
It wasn’t all bad for Ruggs…
Ruggs did have moments that show what he’s capable of but said moments were few and far in between. He started the season fast as he is in the opener against the Carolina Panthers. He caught a pass for 45 yards which showed his speed and separation. Sadly, it was his lone highlight of that game. In his ‘breakout’ game versus the Kansas City Chiefs, he had three receptions for 118 yards and a 72-yard touchdown.
Another memorable moment came against the New York Jets. In one of the plays of the year, Ruggs showed his speed as he beat the corner and caught a 46-yard touchdown to win the game. By the same token, Ruggs prior to that, had a pass go through his hands that resulted in an interception and later fumbled inside Jets territory. The fact that Ruggs kept his head in the game despite the mishap and still helped win it, well, it speaks volumes.
So what about 2021?
This is when Ruggs needs to stand out and make noise. The pressures of being a first-round pick demand he breaks out in big fashion during his sophomore campaign.
A big key is that Ruggs seems to take everything in stride and wants to use criticism as motivation. He was in no way happy with what happened last season and wants to make up for it in 2021. It’s his time and we know he has the speed and catching ability as well. He’ll need to click with Carr this year, if he does, a 1,000-yard season is not too far-fetched.
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/John Locher