NAPA – Andre Holmes led last year’s Raiders in receiving yards. Losing him for a prolonged stretch last season would’ve been debilitating, leaving quarterback Derek Carr virtually weaponless n the receiving corps.
This year, they can easily survive that setback. The Raiders dramatically upgraded their receiving talent, adding depth and quality through the draft, free agency and renewed health.
Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are locked in as starters. Rod Streater should be the No. 3 receiver, though Kenbrell Thompkins has challenged that stance with a solid start to training camp while Streater was on the non-football injury list.
That’s four already. Last year, the Raiders started the regular season with five.
Holmes was fighting for that spot before a fractured hand suffered Sunday sidelined him for 3-4 weeks. Brice Butler has wowed as he always does in the preseason. Seth Roberts has come on strong and has earned first-team snaps in practice. Kris Durham has made some nice plays with lower units as well.
Even without Holmes, there is heavy competition for a roster spot at wide receiver.
“A battle, that’s what it’s been,” Carr said after Wednesday’s practice. “These guys have been working their tails off. There’s not one guy out there that we say, ‘I don’t know about that guy.’ Whenever they go on the field, all of them can make plays.
"They all bring something different, whether it’s route-running ability, deep-ball skills, guys catching it and what they do after the catch, they all have something different. It’s a battle. It’s going to be up to the coaches and (general manager Reggie) McKenzie to decide who fits where and what they want.”
Being out an extended period doesn’t help Holmes – he might not be ready until the first regular season game, maybe later -- though he has qualities that would fit well in this offense.
Streater’s return this week has been a shot in the arm in the middle of the depth chart. If he returns to old form, the position group will be bolstered with starter quality.
“It was so nice to see him out there, more so just because I love the guy,” Carr said. “I know it was hard on him not practicing and not being out here with us. I felt happy for him to be out there. Me, personally, having him out there, it felt good.”
Jobs are on the line, but a rising tide raises all boats.
“It doesn’t feel like a battle; we’re all out there trying to compete,” Thompkins said. “We can’t control the last say-so. We’re all out there competing, trying to get each other better, trying to push each other, feed off each other. I think we all bring something different to the table.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio said preseason and practice performance earns more reps, more chances to impress. The Raiders will continue to refine their options in an attempt to find a well-rounded group with injury protection on the back end.
“Guys that do well get more, guys that don’t do as well get less,” Del Rio said “It’s really pretty cut and dry. We’re going to want to look at more of guys that do well and do good things with the reps they get.”