Waller leads the Raiders with 26 receptions and 267 yards receiving. And while Tyrell Williams had only three catches for 29 yards against the Minnesota Vikings, he’s caught a touchdown pass in each of the Raiders’ first three games.
But the rest of the Raiders’ receiving corps, with the exception of the club’s two other tight ends, Derek Carrier and Foster Moreau, who have combined for six receptions and 54 yards in limited playing time, has left plenty to be desired.
Rookie fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow has caught nine passes on 15 targets for 71 yards. J.J. Nelson has four receptions for 36 yards. And Ryan Grant, who was inactive for Sunday’s game, has just four receptions for 14 yards.
With Williams firmly established as the Raiders’ top wide receiver, Raiders coach Jon Gruden admitted on Monday that a No. 2 is “a position that’s not really solved yet.”
Grant had a rough game against the Chiefs in Week 2, making just one catch on five targets for minus-2 yards. Gruden said he was scratched from the Vikings game in part because the Raiders needed to have more offensive linemen available with right tackle Trent Brown dealing with a knee injury and left guard Richie Incognito playing his first game since the 2017 postseason.
“We can’t have five receivers or x-amount of players at certain positions if you go heavy on the offensive line,” Gruden said.
But even if the Raiders have just four receivers active, one of them clearly isn’t showing enough to produce on the field. That would be Keelan Doss.
The Raiders brought the “Hard Knocks” star back from the Jaguars’ practice squad with a fully guaranteed $495,000 base salary and $300,000 signing bonus, according to a report from NFL Network. But Doss has played just six snaps in the last two weeks. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t thrown him a pass.
When asked about Doss, Gruden pointed to the Raiders’ tight end production, saying that unit is performing better than any other on the offense. And Doss, Gruden said, is a rookie.
“He’s right now playing three different positions, and he’s backing up all three. When the time is right, you’ll see him,” Gruden said. “But right now, he’s got to keep competing and keep getting better like all young players.”
Acquired from Green Bay for a sixth-round pick last week, Trevor Davis may also factor in at receiver sooner than later.
“We’re going to make it competitive. We’re going to let Trevor Davis have an opportunity to get on the grass,” Gruden said. “We didn’t bring him in here to watch.”
The Raiders’ running backs are another option in the passing game. Coaches and players raved about rookie Josh Jacobs’ pass-catching ability during the preseason, but he’s only made one reception for 28 yards through three weeks, and that came in Week 1. Jacobs wasn’t targeted in the loss to the Chiefs and had just two targets in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings.
“We definitely do want to get Josh to be a big part of the passing game,” Gruden said. “One-hundred percent, we’ve got to get more out of Josh as a receiver.”
The Indianapolis Colts enter Week 4 No. 13 against the pass and No. 18 in total defense. Last week, they allowed 304 yards passing to the Falcons in their 27-24 victory. If the Raiders are to get a win in Indianapolis on Sunday, they’ll need more effective play out of their receiving options not named Waller or Williams.