The Las Vegas Raiders found themselves in a difficult situation entering this 2021 season. With the loss of wide receiver Nelson Agholor to the New England Patriots via free agency – the Raiders were not sure who would fill the shoes of the 2020, near-1,000 yard receiver.
The Raiders are in a particularly odd position. The best receiver regardless of roster improvements or development among young receivers on this roster is without a doubt a tight end. Or for that matter, a converted former wide receiver, which would be Pro Bowler Darren Waller.
With that being said, the Raiders still needed to replace the production of Nelson Agholor, the de-facto number two receiver last year to Waller’s 1A. So far, it looks like it is not recent free agent additions John Brown or Willie Snead. In fact, the answer is an in-house player, second-year receiver Henry Ruggs III.
The Raiders used the 12th overall pick last year to select Ruggs, a speedster who was still in heavy development coming out of the University of Alabama. With a few key plays being an exception to the rule here, Ruggs did not overly excite as a rookie last season.
With nagging injuries and also what seemed like a lack of chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr – Ruggs only finished with 452 receiving yards. To put that number into context, he finished 9th overall among rookie receivers in yards and 11th in receptions. Not very impressive, considering that Ruggs was the first receiver off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Ruggs Impressing in Camp
Fast forward to 2021 – Ruggs has packed on 13 pounds of muscle to deal with the rigor of physicality at the next level. He has become a go-to receiver so far for the Raiders and Carr in training camp thus far. In fact, he has been one of the stars in the recent showings in camp. He has routinely burned the secondary for two deep ball touchdowns and has been giving headaches to not only the rookies, but starters in cornerback Trayvon Mullen and safety Jonathan Abram.
Not only is Ruggs being supplied with compliments from his quarterback and teammates, but Head Coach Jon Gruden has even taken notice of the improvement of Ruggs by stating that “He knows the offense, and anticipates what’s going to be called now instead of reacting to what’s called as he’s lining up.”
It is only training camp, so it may be a tad early to call Ruggs the new ‘savior’ at wide receiver, Nevertheless, Raider Nation should have a level of excitement here. With his speed, new physique, knowledge of the playbook, and intensity level of the NFL, Ruggs should see a significant improvement in year two. Expect Henry Ruggs III to have a breakthrough season this year. For the Raiders sake, this is indeed the hope and expectation.
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