ALAMEDA, Calif. — Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team will look to improve the wide receiving corps this offseason. But one player the club won’t need to replace is Hunter Renfrow.
As a rookie, the wide receiver out of Clemson led the team with 49 receptions in 13 games. Despite making only four starts, he had 605 yards receiving and scored four touchdowns. Renfrow was particularly productive on third down, making 23 receptions for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Seventy percent of Renfrow’s third-down receptions resulted in first downs.
“I think the young kid from Clemson is special,” Gruden said. “I think he’s a real fun guy to coach.”
“I think after the bye week, I went home for a week and just sat up in the tree stand and just kind of thought and processed the season,” Renfrow said. “And that Green Bay week we played right after — I didn’t have a very good statistical game, probably. But … it was the first time I just felt like I could slow down, I could wrap my mind around what I needed to get done.”
Renfrow’s right — the numbers don’t necessarily reflect the feeling. He caught only two passes on three targets for 14 yards in that game. But the next week, Renfrow caught four passes for 88 yards against the Texans — including a 65-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
“We had a good little stretch there and just started to get better and better,” Renfrow said.
Renfrow missed three games after injuring his rib against the Jets in Week 12. But he was able to return for the last two games of the season and showed how valuable he was to the club’s passing game. Renfrow caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers in Week 16 and followed that with a six-reception, 102-yard performance against the Broncos.
“I think that sometimes it’s good to sit out and kind of see things you can work on,” Renfrow said, adding the most significant thing he was able to see was how to affect defenders in different ways with the way he runs his routes. “I think missing those three weeks — when you want to be out there — I think that definitely helped me be able to process things.”
“We asked him to do a lot in the last few weeks and he delivered,” Gruden said. “He ran some routes (Sunday) that were outstanding.”
With such a strong rookie class, Renfrow said he’s very encouraged about the future. He said the Raiders are primed for success.
In all his years of playing football, Renfrow said the season after one in which his team suffered several close losses, like the Raiders did this season, “the next year we have a great year. So as we go to Las Vegas, I think, hopefully, we’ll do something special.”