ALAMEDA -- With Jacoby Ford and his sprained left foot out, Darrius Heyward-Bey and his neck still sore and Denarius Moore and his injured right foot likely keeping him sidelined, where will the Raiders turn for production out of their receiving corps on Sunday against Chicago?
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"We have so many playmakers on this team, the depth is ridiculous," said fullback Marcel Reece. "A lot of the guys who are towards the bottom of our depth chart could be on the top of someone else's depth chart."We have so many playmakers on this team that when someone goes down, the next person just steps up. And we're just going to see who that next person is"Well, Oakland does have three healthy receivers in Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Plus, they may have a wild-card in converted rookie tight end David Ausberry, who played receiver at USC."If they need me, Ill be ready," Ausberry said. "It's just part of learning the offense, getting involved, doing what I can. If they need me, they'll say something. And I'll be ready."Ausberry has been active for six of the Raiders' 10 games thus far. He has caught one ball for four yards and lost two yards on a reverse carry. But in the preseason, he had a gorgeous 18-yard touchdown catch against Arizona in which he showed his receiving skills by dragging his foot in the end zone before going out of bounds.He has been working with quarterback Carson Palmer on routes this week."That's just staying ready," Ausberry said. "That's it. If coach (Hue) Jackson needs me and the offense needs me, they'll call my number and I'll go in there and do what I can do."It pretty much ties into our offensive concepts. I know about 75, 80 percent of the wide receiver stuff. If they need me, they'll call me."And for that other "wild-card" receiver? No, Terrelle Pryor is not going to run patterns anytime soon."I wouldn't have him do that," Jackson said. "I don't see him that way. He's a quarterback and that's the position he plays, so I wouldn't put him in that situation."
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”