This offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders didn’t target any big-name wide receivers and even released John Brown as part of the final roster cuts. Despite a disappointing rookie season, the team is banking on Henry Ruggs taking a leap in 2021. The former first-round pick showed some flashes of big-play ability last season but had trouble getting open on a consistent basis.
He’s packed on muscle this offseason and has been working very hard. There was a reason he was the first wide receiver taken in the first round and Jon Gruden is going to want to prove that the pick wasn’t a mistake. Even though his stats weren’t impressive last season, Gruden believes that Ruggs impacts the game. He had a chance to explain as the Raiders head into the season.
“With Henry, you have to remember the name Cliff Branch. Pro Football Focus wasn’t around then to say he only had 50 catches. But he ripped the stinkin’ deep end of the coverage off. And it was better for Dave Casper and Fred Biletnikoff,” Gruden told Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Part of the reason [Darren] Waller has explosive plays is because of Ruggs. He’s a threat with or without the ball. And I believe Bryan has a chance to be a special player. He’s got to stay healthy. And I don’t want to discount Hunter Renfrow or Zay Jones or Willie Snead. We’re going to use them all.”
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Ruggs Named Breakout Candidate by ESPN
Ruggs deserves the benefit of the doubt for last season. The Raiders run a complicated offense and he didn’t have much of an offseason to prepare. He also dealt with injury issues early in the season. However, there are no more excuses this season. He’s healthy, put on muscle and should at least have a solid understanding of the playbook.
Paul Gutierrez of ESPN believes that Ruggs can be the breakout player for the Raiders this season.
As the first wideout drafted in a historically deep 2020 class for receivers, Ruggs should have already made his imprint, no? Well, injury and ineffectiveness limited him to 26 catches for 452 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games as a rookie. Now, he has gained muscle without losing any of his speed and has, perhaps most importantly, gained the trust of QB Derek Carr. Expect more than the occasional deep ball, then, as well as slants and plays in space to let Ruggs create.
Ruggs is supremely talented and one of the fastest wide receivers in the NFL. He’s also a hard worker. He should be much better in Year 2. It remains to be seen exactly how much better.
Ruggs More Comfortable This Year
Ruggs has been honest about his struggles as a rookie. He hasn’t blamed the team or quarterback Derek Carr for his lack of stats. He feels like he’s in a much better spot heading into 2021.
“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable, especially with the playbook,” Ruggs told NFL Network last month. “Last year with no offseason, no extra time to put in work, it was like I was confused and just thinking too much. But the game, it feels slower. It feels like I’m moving at my speed.”
The Raiders’ offense could take a major step forward if Ruggs becomes the player many thought he’d be coming into the NFL.