Position outlook: Wide receiver

This is one story in a series of position outlooks for the Oakland Raiders. Today, here's a look at wide receivers:

Looking back: Tim Brown and Jerry Rice's production slipped markedly but the question remains – is it because their ability has declined or was it because of the Oakland Raiders' revolving door at quarterback and offensive line? Or was it perhaps due in part to Jerry Porter missing six games to injury?

It might be a combination of all of those factors. Brown tallied 52 catches for 567 yards and two touchdowns. The first two categories were his lowest totals since 1992. Rice grabbed 63 passes for 869 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest totals since his rookie season in 1985. Those numbers exclude the 1997 season, when he played just two games because of injury.

Rice and Brown are 41- and 37-years old respectively. They might not be among the best at their position but they are far from the worst. Plus, anytime a team is riddled with injuries at quarterback and offensive line while committing to the ground game more heavily, a receiver's production is bound to slip.

Porter enjoyed a breakout season in 2002 but injuries caused him miss six games last season. Alvis Whitted, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel are mostly special teams performers but none did anything smashing when given the opportunity at receiver in Porter's absence.

Looking ahead: Brown and Rice have stated no intention to retire and nor have the Raiders given any indication of their desire to retain those two future Hall-of-Famers. The team has far more pressing matters at this point. Like, who will be the next coach? It would appear that Brown might be more likely to stay than Rice since he's a lifelong Raider. Brown would like to stay but is prepared to go elsewhere if necessary. Rice has not stated one way or the other.

Porter is definitely a star in the making but as long as Rice and Brown remain, it is unlikely that scenario will be in full-bloom. Regardless, the Raiders need to find an eventual No. 2 man to go with Porter. Whitted, Curry and Gabriel played to sparingly on offense to definitively say yes or no.

Whitted and Curry and free agents that Oakland is likely to retain because of their special teams ability and cost effectiveness. Gabriel, meanwhile, showed ample promise as a kickoff returner.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com

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