Picking Foster Moreau as a Secret Superstar of the Las Vegas Raiders offense might seem like reach from the outside looking in, but let’s take a deeper dive.
A torn ACL cut Moreau’s 2019 rookie campaign short during a Week 14 loss in Oakland vs. the Tennessee Titans. He finished the season with 21 catches for 174 yards, and notched 5 touchdowns, good for second-most on the team in receiving touchdowns. Heading into the 2020 offseason, Moreau projected as the clear cut TE2 behind all-world TE1 Darren Waller, despite coming off his injury.
During the NFL’s two-day legal tampering period, Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden gave Moreau’s detractors more bulletin board material. He coaxed former Dallas Cowboys legendary TE Jason Witten out of retirement with a 1 year, $4.75 Million deal. At first glance, one would believe that Moreau’s slow recovery influenced Witten’s signing. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Gruden knew that he had a roster chock full of young and impressionable talent, in Sin City of all places. He needed a wily veteran to provide leadership on and off the field. When Moreau first got wind of the signing, he was ecstatic. He simply couldn’t believe that the guy he grew up idolizing would be playing right beside him in 2020.
Foster took a back seat to Witten for most of the 2020 season. Even though he was fully recovered from his injury, he accepted and embraced his lesser role in the offense. He figured that he would have a far greater return on investment if he sat back and learned from a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. This selfless act is just a microcosm of the type of man Moreau is.
You see, Foster is a part of the “One Eight Club” from his days at LSU. For those not familiar, that means he was chosen by his teammates to wear the number 18 jersey. LSU explains the honor to wear number 18 as “synonymous with success – both on and off the field.”
Coming out of LSU, Moreau was rated as a day 3 prospect (Rounds 4-7). The Raiders selected Moreaue in the 4th Round with the 137th overall pick. Scouts unanimously praised his blocking ability and his sneaky athleticism. He is not twitchy nor does he have blazing in-line speed. What he does have are underrated hands, surprising change of direction skills, and a nice burst to get open when needed. These skills will all come in to play in 2021 as the Raiders look to improve on their disappointing 2020 red zone touchdown scoring percentage ranking of 23 out of 32.
Ground and Pound
It’s no secret that Gruden loves to pound the rock. Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock reshaped the offensive line to get younger and more athletic. They gave running back Kenyan Drake a healthy contract in free agency to lure him away from the Arizona Cardinals. Gruden loves the two tight end set or “12 personnel” (1 RB and 2 TE’s) as coaches like to say.
I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the phrase: “it’s a copycat league.” Defenses adapted as offenses began to favor three wide receiver sets (aka “11 personnel”). They started matching speed for speed by running more nickel, taking the third linebacker off the field and replacing him with a fifth defensive back.
A generation of football players long gone were lumbering run stuffers. Now you have middle linebackers that weigh 220 pounds because they need to run and cover. Enter Jon Gruden, who wants to get back to old school football and run the ball right down your throat. Nothing makes him more satisfied than to see his offense go on a 15 play, 80 yard drive that evaporates 11 minutes off of the game clock.
In order to do this, you need to have some versatile tight ends. Gruden values guys that are equally adept at blocking as they are at catching and running routes. Nobody will ever confuse Waller with Lee Smith when it comes to run blocking, and frankly, I’m okay with that. That’s where Moreau can shine. He’s a willing and able blocker who isn’t afraid to mix it up. Yet he’s able to use his slippery route running and suction cup hands to take advantage of overly aggressive defenses. He is the perfect compliment to Waller. The Raiders’ red zone offense struggled without him in 2020.
My 2021 projection for Moreau is 35 catches for 400 yards and 6 touchdowns. As the Raiders feature more 12 personnel, I expect Waller to continue to see double teams. There is still a lot of inexperience at wide receiver with Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards on the outside. This will allow Moreau to take a quantum leap forward in this offense and cement his status as our offense’s Secret Superstar for 2021.
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