Training camp outlook: Wide receiver

One story in a series looking at the Oakland Raiders, who arrive for training camp in Napa, CA, on July 29, by position. Today – here's a look at wide receivers:

When it comes to Hall-of-Fame resumes, nobody beats the Oakland Raiders at this position. In that respect, the Raiders wide receivers are not totally unlike the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers (minus the soap opera-like drama) in that they have two players destined for Canton, Ohio, at the close of their great careers.

The problem is how much can be expected of Tim Brown (37) and Jerry Rice (41) right now? Age coupled with injuries at quarterback, offensive line and fellow receiver Jerry Porter were contributing factors in Rice and Brown's declining production last season.

Brown still knows how to get open and runs good patterns but no longer has the ability to gain yards after the catch. Brown struggles to beat bump-and-run coverage at the line of scrimmage but can still be effective as a short-to-medium range receiver.

Rice mused in January that the 2004 NFL season will be his last. Rice, however, might still have some value since he is only one year removed from making his most recent Pro Bowl – but not as a No. 1 receiver. In a nutshell, Rice might not be the best receiver in the game like he was for so many years but he is far from the worst.

In fact, many people have suggested that fourth-year man Porter should be the lead horse with Brown and Rice being eased into complimentary roles.

Porter has tremendous speed, size and hands coupled with the ability to make difficult catches. Porter sustained a groin injury that cost him six games but many speculated last season that Porter was in line to supplant Brown as the next starting flanker in Oakland. The question is: who would be the eventual sidekick for Porter? Backups Alvis Whitted, Doug Gabriel and Ronald Curry are returnees but none of them played much and they didn't show enough last year to warrant playing time.

The Raiders drafted Carlos Francis, who ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, from Texas Tech and Johnnie Morant from Syracuse to compete for the No. 4 and 5 spots. All have potential but as long as Rice and Brown are present, it's hard to imagine them getting much of an opportunity.


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