Entering last year, Andre Holmes had two career receptions. He’d barely played in two professional seasons, just 17 snaps to be specific.
The lanky receiver spent most days on the practice squad, meaning he spent more time on game prep than self-improvement.
Without game tape, or even useful practice film for that matter, Holmes had a tough time finding his way to the next level.
The Raiders gave him an opportunity to do so. After a delayed start due to a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy, Holmes played 10 games and turned a corner down that stretch.
While every game wasn’t equal to a Thanksgiving loss to Dallas with seven receptions for 136 yards, Holmes finally has film to scrutinize. For the first time in his professional career, he has something tangible to build on entering an offseason.
“It allowed me to set bar about where I was and where I can be,” Holmes said. “Years before, I didn’t have game tape to look at. I didn’t even have practice tape. It’s almost like starting from ground zero in a way. Now I have a standard, a foundation to build on, and that’s so key for me to grow.”
Without a true No. 1 receiver, the Raiders need contributions from their entire receiver corps. While he doesn’t have blazing speed, Holmes can stretch the field with an ability to secure passes in the air.
“He’s a long strider, a big guy who can stretch the field vertically and go up and get the football,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “Obviously, his height and his ability to adjust in the air are some of his strengths, as well as some of the intermediate routes. Just being able to get to the top of his route, come strong out of his cut, he can be a guy that can stretch the field for us.”
Holmes’ confidence is up after an offseason spent working on techniques he thought were lacking in his game tape.
“I’m looking at myself critically,” Holmes said. “That’s how I go about things heading into this training camp because I know I can really help improve my game.
“This offseason, I wanted to work on my intermediate routes. I need to be more explosive and more crisp, which will help me be more consistent. That’s the main thing. Consistency is so key."
Holmes was active with the first team during the offseason program, and must be a complete receiver to stay there. Holmes is watching lots of tape. He’s listening to his elders, especially veteran import James Jones.
After toiling on practice squads and sidelines, Holmes isn’t taking this chance for granted. He aims to make the most of a golden opportunity to establish himself as an NFL player.
“In the last year I’ve seen so much growth in my game,” Holmes said. “I’ve been able to finish plays and catch everything that comes, even the easy ones. That type of growth, especially in being a pro, is really encouraging. And the chance to play, the opportunity, really helped. I just need to make the most of the chance I have here.”