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NAPA – Last year at this time, Andre Holmes was fighting to earn a roster spot, and he wasn’t winning on the scorecards.
The young receiver had bounced around some without getting a real opportunity, and a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy certainly didn’t help his cause with the Raiders.
Fast forward to the present and you’ll find him atop the depth chart. If the regular season began Friday, Holmes would start. The Raiders have a cluster of receivers of equal skill, so there’s plenty of room for movement, but Holmes has done enough to be considered a viable option. And, at this point it would take something drastic to get cut.
He wants to build on a strong second half of 2013, when he made a real impact. If he can’t Holmes understands he’ll be a spark that never caught fire.
“I envision just being able to contribute every game throughout the whole season,” Holmes said. “I want to be consistent throughout the whole season, and continue an upward slope by making big plays. The goal is just to continue to get better.”
If he can make that happen, the Raiders will get solid return on an unheralded player snatched off the waiver wire.
“He has (already) surpassed what we thought we were getting when we brought him in here, and there is still a lot that he can improve on," head coach Dennis Allen said. “Yeah, I’m happy with what we’re getting out of Andre Holmes. I think he is going to be a real factor for us this year.”
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, the lanky receiver and former basketball player excels at securing deep passes in traffic. Quarterback Matt Schaub has found that trait appealing.
“With that size and his ability to go up and get the ball, even when a guy’s covering him man-to-man, you just give him a chance,” Schaub said. “He’s going to make you look good. And you don’t shy away from bump-and-run. You just put it up in the air where only he can get it with his vertical.”
Holmes is confident in that ability. He wants to be more than just a deep threat. Holmes spent significant time working on intermediate patterns with particular focus on disciplined route running and being physical at the line of scrimmage.
Strides have been made in that area, an important gain with a new quarterback still trying to identify go-to targets.
“I feel like we are starting to click a little bit,” Holmes said. “I think he knows where I like the ball, and he’s been placing it in those areas a lot. So, I think with all the receivers he’s starting to really get a connection with all of us, knowing where we’re going to be and kind of the timing of the routes and everything like that.”
Holmes’ confidence is rising, but his ego hasn’t taken over. There’s plenty left to work on, and many left to impress. Allen said preseason depth charts are always written in pencil, and good game play can change hierarchies in a hurry.
Even still, Holmes has enjoyed a feeling of greater security after a year’s worth of significant progress.
“(Being atop the depth chart) is a good feeling, but I still look to improve in many areas,” Holmes said. “People could get complacent being in that position, but I really know that I have a lot to work on, and that’s what I’m trying to do right now in this camp.”