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How the Raiders can move on without Henry Ruggs III on the field

What’s next for LasVegas at wide receiver?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
Bryan Edwards
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s difficult to focus on football during this heartbreaking time, the reality for the Las Vegas Raiders is that they have a game on Sunday at the New York Giants — and at 5-2, they are in great shape in the AFC playoff chase.

So, yes, the Raiders must focus on football after the fatal crash that left key wide receiver Henry Ruggs III facing felony charges and prison time if convicted. The team made a dramatic first step by releasing the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 draft late on Tuesday night.

So while it feels strange, we need to take a look at the football side of this story:

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Zay Jones
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Current wide receivers:
The Raiders only have three receivers on the roster: Starter Bryan Edwards, slot man Hunter Renfrow and backup Zay Jones. Jones will likely start with Edwards this week. Wednesday afternoon, Raiders’ interim head coach Rich Bisaccia expressed confidence in Jones. Of course, tight end Darren Waller is the top receiving option, even though Renfrow leads the team with 38 catches. But what makes this passing game so good is how varied and diverse it is. It’s an ensemble group with someone always taking a key role, whether it’s game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter or drive-by-drive. Ruggs, who averaged 19.5 yards per catch on 24 receptions this season, had a key role and he will his presence on the field will be missed.

What’s next:
The Raiders currently have three roster spots open. Receivers will be added this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Bisaccia did say the team may stay ‘status quo’ this week, adding from the practice squad. But he did say outside help is being considered as well. They could make a roster claim on DeSean Jackson, who will be available Thursday after being waived by the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday. If not, they can always sign him if he goes unclaimed. The Raiders can also sign veterans John Brown or Willie Snead, who they signed this year and then cut. Dillon Stoner and Javon Wims can be promoted from the practice squad. Also, keep on eye on Odell Beckham Jr. His Cleveland Browns’ days may be coming to an end. As far replacing Ruggs’ specifically, Jackson probably best fits the role as a field stretcher even though he turns 35 next month and has shown signs of decline.

UPDATE: The Raiders showed interest (apparently before the trade deadline Tuesday) in OBJ:

NFL: Washington Football Team at Green Bay Packers
Davante Adams
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Next year:
Of course, it all depends on who the coach will be and what system the Raiders will run. But either way, receiver will likely be an area of high interest in Las Vegas next offseason. Top potential free-agent targets could include Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers and Allen Robinson of the Chicago Bears. Getting a speedy wide receiver will now likely be an early draft priority for the Raiders as well now that the present and future of the position has suddenly changed.