This time last year training camp was buzzing about the work Johnny Holton was doing as a receiver. The udrafted rookie was making huge catches left and right and earned the final wide receiver spot on the team.
In camp, it was mostly about his speed on go routes. In the regular season, he touched the ball just 8 times with 6 of those coming on end arounds and reverses. The Raiders liked his speed, but didn’t fully trust him in the receiving game yet, leaving him to make his mark on special teams.
“I think raw is a kind word,” Raiders special teams coach, Brad Seely said of Holton as a rookie. “I think he was very raw. It’s totally different than college football. It’s a different game than college football. Obviously, a lot of the rules are similar, but you’re playing against men. The men in this league, you got to be a man.”
The 6-0, 190-pounder stepped up in his role on special teams, finishing tied for the team lead with 11 solo special teams tackles.
Now entering his second season, the coaches would like to see even more from him.
“It would be natural for him to expand his role a little bit,” Jack Del Rio said of Holton. “Take some of the experience he had last year and help us make an even bigger impact on special teams as well as being involved in the offense. That’s the next step for him. That’s the progression we’re looking to see.”
The part of Holton’s game he’s been working on the most is branching out as a receiver, working on every route in the route tree.
“Having a year under my belt with the coaches, they did a pretty good job of helping me run routes and things like that,” said Holton, “how to get in and out of breaks and how to use my arms when running my routes and pretty much focus on the ball and catch everything.”
“Just knowing how to get open and get to the right spot when the quarterback needs you in it.”
While Holton hasn’t had as many highlight reel catches this camp, he’s been consistently working with the second team with occasional first team work as well and has looked like he belongs.
Holton is looking like the replacement for Taiwan Jones who was released just prior to training camp after spending six seasons in Oakland. Jones was an outstanding gunner and occasional gadget player on offense. Although, if the team is able to get the most out of him, they will have to make it less obvious when he comes in that he will be running a reverse.