Oakland Raiders receiver Louis Murphy at OTA practice 2012 (photo by Levi Damien)
The Raiders had a deep receiving corps coming into this offseason. And despite the lack of any superstars, Louis Murphy still found himself buried in the depth chart. As of now, he appears to equally buried if not more so with some added competition.
Murphy was injured for the first part of last season; missing the first five games. When he did return, the Raiders seemed to have moved on from him. He didn't have a single catch in his first two games back with just one catch in the waning seconds of the week nine home loss to the Broncos. After he caught it, he spiked the ball releasing a lot of pent up frustration at not being part of the offense beforehand. He was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, removing 15 of the 23 yards he had just picked up with the catch. And the following week, he was back to not seeing the ball again.
The surprise fourth round pick had many heroics as a rookie and was a favorite of a fanbase desperate for a great receiver and staring at what appeared to be a huge mistake in first round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey. Now for Murphy to be a forgotten man in the Raiders' offense just two seasons later is a cause for great frustration for the fiercely competitive receiver.
When Murphy is a factor in the offense, his competitive nature is a welcome addition. When he is not part of the offense, it can pose a problem. He then is seen as a guy who is not a team player. And his inability to curb his anger and play the role given to him rubs some teammates and coaches the wrong way.
His problems on the field have at times been drops. While he may have been the hero of the 2009 season, he also had a terrible case of the dropsies. He was among the league leaders in drops in that season, dropping over 20% of on-target passes. He did improve that number considerably in his second season and was not among the 15 worst offenders, cutting his drop percentage at least in half.
In addition, in 2011 camp, prior to his going out with an injury, he looked fantastic. He was by far the best receiver on the team early in training camp from where I was standing (this was before Denarius Moore settled in).
The problem this season thus far is he has yet to join his teammates in OTA's. In his absence, rookie Juron Criner has made a solid case for himself to move ahead of Murphy in the depth chart.
So what the Raiders have now ahead of Murphy is Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, and Juron Criner.
Murphy also has a competition on his hands with Eddie McGee who has worked out extensively with Carson Palmer this offseason and may have leapt ahead of Murphy in the competition to be a part of this team. Add in UDFA rookie Rod Streater, who has looked quite good thus far, and Murphy should be sweating bullets about now.
I see the Raiders carrying six receivers into the season. Murphy, McGee, and Streater look to be in a three-way competition for the final two spots. Someone will be without a chair when the music stops. McGee and Streater are eligible for the practice squad but if they look good in preseason, some other team looking to add a receiver may swipe them up before the Raiders could place them on the practice squad. If the Raiders fear that will happen, they won't give them that chance.
The Raiders are still in the midst of offseason OTA's. We have gotten a glimpse of the new arrivals thus far although it can be hard to judge them too much based on non-contact drills. They still have more OTA's, mandatory minicamp, more off season and training camp to go through before anything is settled.