On the same day the Raiders sent Ryan Switzer to Pittsburgh, we learn that the man who was supposedly his primary competition for the slot receiver job may not be ready for the start of the season.
Griff Whalen left the locker room after Friday night’s game against the Packers in a walking boot.
“Turf toe,” Gruden said of Griff Whalen’s injury. “That could be a couple weeks. It could be a few weeks.”
Update: Whalen has been placed on injured reserve. He can remain on IR all season or the team can waive him with an injury settlement.
So, what was looking like it was coming down to a battle between Switzer and Whalen to be the team’s primary slot receiver to begin the season, turns out to be neither.
Turf toe can linger. It gives the Raiders a decision to make on if they like Whalen enough to wait out the injury, however long it takes, or to put him on injured reserve.
Remember there is still a logjam at receiver and two other receivers — Seth Roberts and Dwayne Harris — both have experience playing the slot as well.
Roberts played some in Friday’s game. In fact, he led all Raiders players in snaps. Though he was unable to record a catch.
“He did some good things,” Gruden said of Roberts. “Some of the balls didn’t go his way, but he was open a few times, did a nice job blocking, did an excellent job running some routes. It’s good to see him back out there. We’ll try to get Seth a lot of work here in the next couple days. It’s good to have him back on our offense.”
Roberts is a tough cut. He is a talented player, but if the Raiders let him go, they will pay him $4.25 million not to play for them. That’s a tough pill to swallow. And with the Ryan Switzer trade, you figure trading Roberts is a slim proposition.
Harris signed this offseason after three seasons in New York with the Giants where he started 7 games on offense. Prior to that he started 3 games over four seasons in Dallas.
“He caught five touchdowns a couple years ago from Eli [Manning], so he’s a capable guy coming over there in the slot. He can go outside, he showed some separation when he did play the other night.”
Where Harris distinguishes himself is his abilities on special teams, as he showed last week against the Packers when he returned a kick 47 yards only to have it called back by a phantom holding penalty.
“He’s a versatile player, we can hand him the ball, we can do a lot of things with him,” Gruden continued. “He’s tough. He was just hurt last year, that was why you didn’t hear from him. And he’s a Pro Bowl special teamer. I really think a couple years ago when the Raiders lost [Andre] Holmes, [Brynden] Trawick and [Daren] Bates, I think it really hurt their special teams, and we want to try to get a couple core guys that [Special Teams Coordinator Rich] Bisaccia can count on every week and we’ll start with Harris.”
Harris and Bisaccia are very familiar with each other from their time together in Dallas. He has looked like a strong bet to make the roster for some time now for his special teams abilities. If they like him enough in the slot as well, it could earn him some time there.