When the Las Vegas Raiders released their 53-man roster earlier this week, there was one move that caught just about everyone by surprise. Wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson ended up making the team over Phillip Dorsett which, in hindsight, shouldn’t have been all that shocking.
During the preseason, Wilkerson led the Raiders with 188 receiving yards and that also ranked third among all wideouts. But what might have pushed him over the edge for the spot is he laid a few impressive blocks in the running game, earning an above-average run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in two out of three contests, which is rare for a wideout.
Here, we’ll dive into a few of those reps as well as a handful of catches.
It’s third and one and the Raiders run lead outside zone in the play above. The one wrinkle they use is Wilkerson is in a reduced or cut split, meaning he’s lined up closer to the offensive line, and is going to crack-block the stand-up outside linebacker/edge defender.
That’s a difficult block because the wideout is at a significant size disadvantage blocking essentially a defensive lineman, but Wilkerson takes a good angle and is physical at the point of attack to pin the defender inside just enough to give Zamir White an outside lane and move the chains.
While the backer does eventually break free, the receiver has done his job and you can’t ask for much more from a guy who’s giving up at least 50 pounds to the guy he’s blocking.
Here, Las Vegas is running iso and Wilkerson’s job is to go block the safety to create a lane and potentially set up a touchdown. He takes a good angle up to the third level and starts to break down to avoid over-pursuing. At the point of contact, he does a great job of getting his hands involved and running his feet to push the safety from one hash mark to the other.
If the blocking up front had been better and Damien Williams was able to break through the second level, this might be a touchdown. Blocks like these from wide receivers are how explosive plays can happen in the ground game.
The play design is very different than the last clip, but the blocks from Wilkerson on this clip and the one before are pretty similar.
The Raiders run a jet sweep and Wilkerson’s job is to ride the cornerback where the corner wants to go and create a lane for Tre Tucker to score. Again, he breaks down before contact, uses his hands and keeps his feet moving to widen the defender to the sideline.
I also like how Wilkerson gets his hips around to give Tucker an easy read and an inside lane to paydirt had the safety not sniffed this play out from the jump.
Moving on to a few routes/catches that caught my eye from Wilkerson.
In the play above, he’s lined up across from a cornerback who is playing off coverage and has outside leverage on him. To create space to the inside on the dig route, he attacks that leverage and that also helps widen the throwing window. Granted, the linebacker in this instance is late to get to his landmark with the play-action fake, but a route like this will pay dividends against better competition.
To finish, Wilkerson makes the catch over the middle and braces himself for contact to hold onto the ball and pick up the first down. Well done!
Our subject doesn’t get the ball here but this is a beautiful press release. Off the line, he does a great job of getting to square on the cornerback to give himself a two-way go and then uses his quickness and speed to create separation. That allows Wilkerson to win against the press corner as he is wide open on the go route, the ball just goes to Tucker who also wins off the line.
Wilkerson had a couple of reps like this where he beats press and is open, the pass just didn't come his way.
We’ll end with Wilkerson’s beautiful touchdown catch.
Off the line of scrimmage, we see another great press release with quick feet on the foot fire and good use of hands to get open on the fade route. But Aidan O’Connell is reading the three-receiver side first so the ball doesn’t come Wilkerson’s way initially.
But he doesn’t give up on the play and turns his route into what essentially becomes a slant. To cap the play off, he makes a nice grab in the back of the end zone with some toe-drag swag to put six points on the board.