Jon Gruden hasn’t gotten off to the best start as the Oakland Raiders head coach, but he’s hoping that one of the NFL’s best deep threats, Martavis Bryant, can help him jumpstart a passing attack that struggled mightily in Week 1.
When he’s at his best, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is a legitimate MVP candidate, and he put up impressive numbers in the 2015 and 2016 seasons before regressing last year. New Raiders head coach Jon Gruden knows he needs to get the most out of Carr, and after a three-interception performance in Week 1, the Raiders are putting some faith into Martavis Bryant.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported that the Raiders have signed Bryant to a one-year deal, explaining that he was initially released when Oakland feared he would be suspended for the 2018 season. Bryant has a history of violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, which is the reason why he fell out of favor with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is viewed as one of the NFL’s biggest gambles.
When he’s at his best, though, Bryant might be worth the headaches for a head coach. He’s made some of the most ridiculous catches over the past few years, and he once averaged over 20 yards per reception with eight touchdowns as a rookie.
The Raiders received a team record-breaking, 180-yard performance from tight end Jared Cook on Monday Night Football, but that was the extent of their passing offense in a dismal 33-13 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.
Neither Amari Cooper nor offseason signing Jordy Nelson could muster much to support Carr, as both players combined for just four catches and 32 yards on seven targets. Even against one of the league’s best cornerback tandems, that sort of production doesn’t cut it, and the Raiders are expecting more out of these two players.
Cooper came into the league with plenty of hype and has shown flashes of brilliance, but the former Alabama standout disappointed greatly last season instead of breaking out. His quiet, one-catch performance in Week 1 against Los Angeles did not do him any favors, and it seems evident to me that Gruden doesn’t have much trust in Cooper.
While it is difficult to plus any significant amount of trust in Bryant, who once missed the entire 2016 season due to a suspension, the Raiders have to at least try something different. It is shocking that they are reuniting with Bryant so quickly after releasing him due to the threat of a year-long suspension, but Gruden appears ready to gamble in the hopes that Bryant’s jaw-dropping size/speed combination will inject life into the Raiders offense in Week 2.
On some level, Gruden may be jerking his knee a bit after a lousy Week 1 performance in primetime against a difficult defense, because the Raiders could get more production from Cooper and Nelson after Cook’s big game. However, Gruden is under fire already after deciding to trade the team’s best player, Khalil Mack, who did shine in a primetime game the night before.
It seems like Gruden is feeling the heat, and it will be interesting to see if Bryant is able to reward him handsomely. He’s produced before and has the tools to be the Raiders most exciting player on offense, but Bryant is also far from a sure thing.
After the team’s Week 1 performance and the down years Cooper and Carr had in 2017, Oakland desperately needs Bryant to play well if he suits up in Week 2 against the rival Denver Broncos. The Mack trade has hurt Gruden’s capital among Raiders fans, so if he wants to take risks going forward, they had better pay off.