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Can Henry Ruggs finally save his disappointing rookie season?

Rookie wide receiver is still not a big part of the offense, but Jon Gruden is going to challenge him on Sunday

Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders
Henry Ruggs III
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Unless Henry Ruggs III has a monster game on Sunday at the Denver Broncs, his rookie season will go down as a disappointment.

Ruggs’ progression will be a major storyline of the 2021 training camp. After another week of little or no production, Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden was asked about Ruggs’ lack of impact and he challenged the first wide receiver taken in the 2020 draft for a second time this season.

“Well Ruggs has been sick for 10 days, he just showed up Friday, No. 1. We didn’t even know if he was going to play,” Gruden said Monday.

“That had something to do with it. Right now, just so we’re all on the same page, we’re targeting [Darren] Waller. We’ve doing a pretty good job of that. We’re targeting Nelson Agholor because those are our top two guys. And we’re targeting Josh Jacobs. Ruggs has got to practice, stay with us longer and do more with his targets. When he does, he’ll see the ball more.”

It was an interesting response because Gruden started his answer by protecting Ruggs and pointing out his health issues, then adding the fact the Raiders have other options. But Gruden finished, by saying Ruggs has to do more.

Earlier in the season, Gruden said Ruggs —— the No. 12 overall pick in the draft — had to earn more targets and do more with those targets.

That is clearly the meat of the issue. The Raiders want to see Ruggs do more when targeted and create more targets himself.

Ruggs, who missed two games early in the season and missed another game with the coronavirus, was targeted just twice in Week 16 against the Miami Dolphins and he didn’t have a catch. Ruggs has just 23 catches on 40 targets this season.

He hasn’t been targeted more than five times in any game as a rookie and his highest game catch total is three. It’s far from what the Raiders expected.

Los Vegas Raiders v New York Jets
Henry Ruggs
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

However, Ruggs has had his moments with big touchdown catches in wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets.

But for the most part, he’s been a decoy. Sure, there is a place for that in the offense, but the Raiders need more from the highest selected receiver in a receiver-heavy draft.

Getting Ruggs involved more needs to be a focal point this week to help raise his confidence and the team’s confidence in him heading into 2021, because getting more from Ruggs in his second season is paramount.