ALAMEDA, Calif. — The indefinite loss of Hunter Renfrow to a rib injury hurts the Raiders on multiple levels. But it will be particularly felt on third downs.
Of Renfrow’s 36 catches, 16 came on third down, resulting in 213 yards and two touchdowns. Nearly as important, 13 of those 16 receptions resulted in first downs.
“Big loss for our team,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
Replicating the chemistry Renfrow had with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will be difficult. For now it will likely be a group effort, with Zay Jones and Trevor Davis likely seeing time as Renfrow’s replacement.
Jones, who the Raiders acquired in a trade with Buffalo on October 7, has yet to find his niche with the Raiders. He has just 11 catches for 88 yards in his five games. But Renfrow’s injury should increase his targets, and there is a chance some will come while operating in the slot.
Jones played all three wide-receiver positions in Buffalo, and when Renfrow went down last Sunday against the New York Jets, Jones got time as his replacement.
The nuances between playing in the slot and outside make the two positions extremely different.
“It’s just a different way to see the game,” Jones said. “Obviously there’s different routes. It’s a different progression. It’s just a different feel. Inside, you’re maneuvering, trying to find open space working through backers, working the nickel (corner) off of safeties’ leverage points. Outside, you’re on an island with the DBs. … So it’s a different perspective.”
Davis, who has seven catches for 83 yards, is also expected to see time in the slot, and the Raiders promoted wide receiver Rico Gafford from the practice squad
“When you lose a playmaker, other playmakers have to step up,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said.