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Rookie receiver’s role with Raiders could expand in final 3 games

Josh McDaniels didn’t get to work with rookie third-round pick Tre Tucker as long as both imagined after April’s draft.

That doesn’t mean McDaniels didn’t make an impact on the speedy wide receiver from Cincinnati. One thing the former Raiders coach said on the eve of training camp still resonates with Tucker.

“He told me I was drafted high here for a reason,” Tucker said.

That wasn’t all.

“Understanding that my role is what I make it,” Tucker said. “Those were his exact words. ‘My role is what I make it.’ ”

Tucker’s role feels like it’s on the verge of expanding as Week 16 of the NFL season beckons. He’s coming off his best game of the year, a two-touchdown performance in the Raiders’ 63-21 win against the Chargers on Dec. 14. That should keep him involved in the game plan and on the radar of rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell.

Tucker’s speed can be an X-factor for the Raiders offense. He can create opportunities for huge plays for himself or his teammates by being a deep-ball threat or a decoy that draws attention from defenders.

“Obviously, he’s a threat whenever he’s on the field. Everybody knows about the speed, it’s no secret,” O’Connell said. “And so, we try to utilize him as much as we can. He’s a really good player. He’s a smart player, instinctive and just naturally really blessed. So, it’s fun to watch him. I wish I could run like that. But yeah, he’s been a dynamic player for us.”

It wasn’t a coincidence Tucker’s career-best game, which also included four catches for 59 yards, came in the same contest Raiders star Davante Adams exceeded 100 receiving yards for the first time in 11 weeks. Or that second-year running back Zamir White and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers had room to operate in.

It all went hand in hand. The Raiders tapped into Tucker’s skills enough to force opponents to respect him as a threat. The rest just fell into place.

“Whether it does or it doesn’t, that’s why we have him running that,” Adams said. “He’s not on dummy routes. He’s running legit routes where he has the opportunity to make a play.”

That doesn’t mean everything is perfect.

Tucker, for the second game in a row, needed a catch reviewed against the Chargers because he didn’t secure the ball cleanly enough. He had a 22-yard reception overturned Dec. 10 in the Raiders’ 3-0 loss to the Vikings, but his 30-yard touchdown grab four days later was upheld.

Still, the fact it was challenged at all shows Tucker hasn’t overcome the occasional bobbles that have plagued him since the preseason.

“I have to do a better job focusing on the ball,” Tucker said. “It’s not that I don’t trust myself, it’s just sometimes, in those situations, you kind of get googly eyed.”

Tucker, after his best game yet, has 11 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns this season. There is reason to believe he can finish his rookie campaign on the right note.

“When you’re a player like Tre … what sets you apart is not going out having a 100-yard game every time because it’s not likely if you’re not the number one guy, and I’ve only had a couple of them this year,” Adams said. “It’s about capitalizing on the opportunities that you do get. If it’s one, making that catch, and if it’s two or three or four, whatever it is, just continuing to prove your worth to yourself, which ultimately does it to your teammates and your coaches as well.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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