The Raiders recently sent out a press release reminding everyone of all the great receivers that have come through Oakland over the years and warning not to give up on Darrius Heyward-Bey joining that list.
“The greatest wide receivers in professional football have passed through the portals of the Oakland Raiders or have been coached by Al Davis,” part of the release stated.
The receivers listed were Lance Alworth (Davis was Alworth’s position coach with the San Diego Chargers), Cliff Branch, Willie Gault, Art Powell, Andre Rison, Warren Wells, Bob Chandler, Fred Biletnikoff, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, James Lofton and Randy Moss.
While I think sending out a press release to remind everyone how great you are borders on pathetic, I do agree with the main point behind it. People are burying Heyward-Bey much too quickly.
Two years ago when I was covering the draft for another media outlet, I had Heyward-Bey pegged as a solid late first-round prospect. My thinking on him was he had a ton of potential but was a little raw and not ready to step right in and be a starter at the NFL level.
Once he was selected by the Raiders with the 7th overall pick, Heyward-Bey was put in a no-win situation. Oakland expected him to come in and be one of the team’s top two receivers but Heyward-Bey wasn’t ready for that responsibility.
Like many predicted, Heyward-Bey struggled as a rookie and now the “bust” label has already been attached to him. However, that simply isn’t fair. A lot of great receivers (Reggie Wayne, for example) have rebounded from poor rookie campaigns to have stellar careers.
Heyward-Bey played for a team in college, Maryland, which is far from a pro passing attack, so he needed work a lot on his route-running and things of that nature before he was ready to take on NFL corners.
Simply put: The Raiders over-drafted Heyward-Bey and threw him into the fire too quickly.
Now reports are Heyward-Bey is having a strong offseason. Combine that with the fact Oakland now has a quarterback that can actually throw the ball forward and I expect Heyward-Bey to have a much more productive sophomore season.
The Raiders didn’t need to put even more pressure on Heyward-Bey by sending out that ridiculous press release but in the end Al Davis and Co. may be the ones laughing last.
Then again, if Heyward-Bey continues to spike the ball down to the ground instead of catching it like he did last year against Kansas City, the Raiders’ brass will need to send out another press release reminding everyone of their past greatness.