Re-Routed: Can Bryan Edwards Reach His Potential With Raiders?

The Las Vegas Raiders have been in search of a true number one receiver ever since Jon Gruden decided to ship Amari Cooper out to Dallas. When Henry Ruggs III was selected 11th overall in the 2020 draft, hopes were high, but it was one of their three third-round selections that had the type of profile many assumed quarterback Derek Carr would love; South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards.

While I didn’t see the level of talent most in the Raiders building claimed to see (no, he’s not a T.O./Randy Moss Wonder Twin), I saw a player in the mold of James Jones. He is the type of physical receiver that will go up and get tough passes in tight coverage. The difference was, Edwards had some juice down the field as well. On paper, Carr and Edwards make a perfect marriage.

After an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, we all hoped this was the year Edwards and Ruggs III would break out simultaneously. Early on, it appeared that would be the case. Carr would lean on Edwards late in wins against Baltimore and Miami. And while it did seem as though Carr was finding a better rapport with HRIII, Edwards didn’t seem too far behind.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long until Edwards would feel like an afterthought in the passing game. He has yet to earn more than six targets in a single game or top 100 yards receiving. With the untimely departure of Ruggs III due to legal matters, one would assume the offense would turn its focus to Edwards on the outside, using his size and quickness to open things up. However, in the four games post-Ruggs, ’89’ has posted four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He had four catches for 81 yards in Week 1 alone.

Is Edwards Getting Open?

The answer can be a bit murky. Per Ryan Holmes, Edwards’ average separation per target is 1.9 yards. That is comparable to names like Tee Higgins and Allen Robinson (#FreeARob). And once he gets the ball in his hands, he is sure to gain extra yardage. Hearing this makes you think Carr should target Edwards more than an average of three times per game. Looking deeper reveals a deeper issue for the former Gamecock.

Edwards has struggled with single-man coverage this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Edwards only wins 30% of these matchups. While Carr is not afraid to give his receivers a chance on 50/50 balls, he will not wait for you if something opens up underneath and pressure is barring down.

Has Carr Lost Faith Already?

The pun wrote itself. But it would appear that Carr is more resigned to throwing to his more proven targets like Waller, Renfrow, and… Zay Jones? Say what you will about the former Buffalo Bill, but he is definitely making the most of his opportunity in Vegas and was wise to attach himself to Carr immediately upon his arrival, especially post-Ruggs. Prior to the DeSean Jackson signing, Jones was seen as a temporary deep threat option. But even with Jackson in the fold, Jones has still overshadowed Edwards’ production to the tune of nine receptions for 121 yards on 16 targets.

Edwards has all the tools to be a true weapon in this offense. But even if the offensive coordinator decides to give more emphasis to properly utilizing Edwards’ strengths, would Carr look his way? One of the reasons the aforementioned Amari Cooper was happy to leave the Raiders when he did (just one of the many, I’m sure) was the disconnect between himself and DC4. Could the same be said for Carr’s relationship with Edwards?

There’s still a lot of the season left and tons of opportunity for a change in this narrative. The Raiders are in no position to waste talent on the outside, and watching Edwards flourish elsewhere would be a further indictment on the current staff and long-tenured quarterback.

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*Top Photo: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal

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