Juron Criner at Oakland Raiders mini camp 2012 (photo by Levi Damien)
The talk of last year's training camp for the Raiders was round five pick, Denarius Moore. And it may be early, but if the OTA's are any indication, the Raiders may have done it again this year with wide receiver Juron Criner.
With Denarius, and Jacoby Ford before him, the Raiders grabbed a guy with speed and catching ability. With Criner, they went for a receiver with everything but speed. But the result appears, thus far, to be the same.
In today's practice, he had teammates and media standing in amazement as he caught everything thrown his way... and a few balls that were not quite thrown his way. He caught everything.
The first pass he pulled in was well behind him on a crossing patter and he corrected, twisted his body around to make a fingertip grab. Later he was on a deep slant that the defense appeared to have sniffed out but Criner leapt in the air to pull the ball down with Demarcus Van Dyke and Tyvon Branch also vying for the ball. The result was a 50 yard touchdown.
Criner wasn't done as he showed his concentration when Travis Goethel jumped on a low ball and tipped it and Criner made the adjustment to catch the ball anyway. He finished off the day with a go route in which he got behind cornerback Pat Lee for an over the shoulder grab in stride.
"It's been a learning process for him," said Dennis Allen of Criner. "I think every day he gets a little bit better. He's learning more what to do. I was pleased with the way that he practiced today. It's not a whole lot different than what we saw on tape in college. That's what we expect from him."
These are exactly the type of plays we saw from Denarius Moore in last year's camp and he took that level of play into the season. He is now the Raiders' number one receiver.
The Raiders drafted Criner as the best player available as a guy who, at 6-3, 221 pounds, just so happened to embody the physical presence and talents they need in a receiver. The players are still in shorts so it can be difficult to judge who can perform once pads and contact are introduced. But the plays he has been making are very similar to those for which he was known in college so it would stand to reason he could continue to make plays when the intensity is turned up.
He may not have the speed (4.68 40-yard dash) but his receiving savvy may just be able to make up for that deficiency.