Can Holmes help at slot receiver?

Three and Out: Watson's cautious approach; increased role for Holmes

Can Holmes help at slot receiver?
October 30, 2013, 6:00 pm
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I pride myself on making sure that any ball in my vicinity gets caught.
Andre Holmes

ALAMEDA –Receiver Andre Holmes has earned a bigger role in the Raiders offense. That’s due in part to his emergence in recent practices. It’s also due to the mistakes of others.

Jacoby Ford and Brice Butler struggled mightily as the No. 3 receiver during Sunday’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brice Butler dropped a crucial third down and had another pass clank off his hands that was intercepted.

In addition special teams miscues, Ford lost a fumbled screen pass at the Raiders’ 11-yard line that gift-wrapped a Steeler touchdown.

“We’ve got to get better production overall from that position,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Again, it’s the consistency factor. We’ve got to be a lot more consistent in doing our job and making the plays we’ve got the opportunity to make, whether it be in the run game blocking, whether it be running our routes exactly right and catching the football. That will be an area we’re going to emphasize to make sure we improve in that area.”

Enter Holmes, an unproven talent climbing his way up the depth chart. The No. 3 job won’t be handed to him. One bad game won’t take Butler or Ford straight out the mix. But it has allowed Holmes to sneak in and play extra snaps.

He had more than his position-mates against Pittsburgh, and a trend that should continue Sunday against Philadelphia. The lankly pass catcher stands 6-foot-4 – he’s the Raiders tallest receiver -- and weighs 210 pounds. He can fight for receptions in the air over smaller defensive backs.

“You have to use that as advantage to make big plays,” Holmes said. “I pride myself on making sure that any ball in my vicinity gets caught.”

Holmes isn’t a concrete answer to the Raiders backup receiver problems. Let’s not forget that he has just two catches in his career and none this season. He’s only been targeted twice.

Holmes has been a slow burn. He impressed during the preseason, but was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He practiced with the team and has played twice, but remains out of the in-game mix.

The Raiders need Holmes – or Butler or Ford, really -- to be an reliable accent piece in the slot. Nothing more.

The NFL’s worst passing game is looking for playmakers outside Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, and Holmes is going to get his shot.

“We have to find ways to get him the ball,” Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor said. “He’s a very big target. He’s a sharp kid, too. I think that, just like the other receivers, if he’s in the progression, he’s going to get the ball and any time you get one-on-one matchups, they have to be taken advantage of.”