Oakland Raiders receiver Denarius Moore at 2011 training camp (photo by Levi Damien)
When Raiders OTA's began last month, the talk of practice was the play of rookie Juron Criner. He showed tremendous hands and body control. It was real look anyone outside of the Raiders organization had of Criner since he had become the Raiders round five compensatory pick in April. And he very quickly drew comparisons to last year's rookie phenom, Denarius Moore.
In the Raiders' second OTA, Criner didn't blow up like he had in the first and allowed a few other Raider receivers to have the spotlight. But in the third OTA, he was back at it. But this time Denarius Moore joined in to show Criner there is already a fantastic set of hands on this team.
Moore, as you may recall, was the talk of last year's training camp. By the second week of camp, he was looking like the best receiver on this team. Every practice he would make one spectacular grab after another. He showed us those plays were no fluke when by midseason, he was Carson Palmer's number one target.
In Wednesday's OTA session, Criner got it started with a one armed catch. Not to be outdone, Moore came back with a one-armed sideline grab.
Don't get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting Moore feels somehow threatened by Criner stealing his thunder. One can simply see the early developments of two great young receivers working to out wow their teammates, coaches, and media in practice while earning the right to translate that play onto the game field.
Moore has proven he can do just that. Criner has yet to prove that, let alone prove he is worthy of getting playing time ahead of the likes of Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey. But he has shown enough to have the coaches looking forward to the preseason to test his skills against opposing defenses in a game setting.
Criner doesn't quite have the straight line speed that Moore has but he has the big body and height that Moore doesn't have. They also have completely different personalities. Moore is a quiet guy who when I asked him last year after all the great catches he made in camp, if he was a playmaker, and he said in his very earnest and quiet way "No, I just make plays". I asked Criner the same question and he didn't hesitate in saying "Yeah, I would say I'm a playmaker."
These two are a nice complement to each other in the Raiders' offense and I could see a nice little good natured rivalry developing between them. The Raiders two young fifth round gems at receiver.
From the looks of it, it will be a fun little competition to watch.