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Raiders WR Henry Ruggs is making the leap

The young wide receiver has made huge strides from year one to year two

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders had two first-round picks in 2020, with one expected to be a wide receiver. The top three receivers in the draft were CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs.

On draft night, the Raiders had the choice to select the one of their choosing. They left most fans in shock with the selection of Henry Ruggs.

The pressure was on Ruggs after the selection, especially to be pro-ready on day one. Ruggs was not pro-ready and needed to put on weight and increase his strength to reach his potential.

Out of the gate, he flashed vs. the Carolina Panthers, but injury derailed him early and never was the same for the season. This led to him being the lowest first-round wide receiver in yards, catches, and targets. People began to write him off as a complete bust.

Flash forward to this season, and Ruggs is an entirely new player. He is 15th in receiver yards and second in deep passing yards using PFF analytics. He is averaging 22.3 yards per catch and is one of the most dynamic young players in football. He and Carr are building a solid relationship of trust, which is in his deep passing numbers where he is second in completion percentage.

What has improved with Ruggs? Let us deep dive and take a look.

Route running

The main area of improvement for Ruggs, of course, is route running. While he is not the most excellent route runner globally, the steady progress is even week-to-week. He understands that teams fear his speed and is using it to his advantage.

This route is a great example. Ruggs will be working on the dig route on the 3x1 to Carr's right. After the snap, the former Alabama wide receiver uses his speed, forcing Alec Ogletree to open up his hips. Ruggs then uses a quick cut inside and leaves the linebacker in the dust, and Carr displays excellent anticipation on the throw.

The big play vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers is where the speed on deep routes and improved route-running come together. On this one, it is a post route from Ruggs on the choice concept. He hits the corner with a jab step and a veteran arm over when he gets to the top of his stem. It creates separation, and Ruggs blows right by him for the touchdown.

Strength and contested catches.

Ruggs will be fighting the just a speed guy label for a while. Ryan Clark of ESPN once called him a one-trick pony, which is ridiculous. Over the first six games, we have seen the former first-round pick make big plays that we usually see from the top wideouts in the game. According to PFF, Ruggs is second in contested catches on the season.

Take, for instance, this catch against the Miami Dolphins. Carr wants Ruggs on the post route, and he uses his speed to blow by pro bowler Xavien Howard. The quarterback doesn't want to throw the ball out of bounds. Instead, he puts it up in the air for him a 50/50. Ruggs rewards his QB for the decision and outmuscles a player known for his play strength for the contested catch.

In the same game, we have the four verticals concept with Ruggs on the jet motion. Carr throws this one back should, and Ruggs makes the acrobatic catch on the sideline while keeping his feet in bounds.

Then, of course, there was Week 6 vs. the Broncos. Olson isolates Ruggs on the 3x1, putting him in the x position, and Carr faces cover 0 and an all-out blitz. He tosses the ball in the air for Ruggs. The receiver wins the 50/50 for the significant gain.

These are just a few signs of his growth into what should be a 1000 yard receiver. The haters have calmed down a bit this week after a highlight-filled performance from young wideout. The future is bright outside for Vegas.