Looking at the young receivers

When the Oakland Raiders released Tim Brown after 16 seasons, they did it on the premise that they felt his skills were declining and that the team had younger receivers ready to contribute.

Alvis Whitted (seventh year), Ronald Curry (third year), Doug Gabriel (second year), Carlos Francis (first year) and Johnnie Morant (first year) are continuing to take advantage of their chances that they might not have gotten if Brown were still present. The Oakland Raiders wide receivers already include future Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice and fifth-year man Jerry Porter as starters.

That makes seven receivers that stand a realistic chance to make the team. The problem is that the Raiders typically kept six under Jon Gruden (1998-2001) and Bill Callahan (2002-2003). Who knows which direction first year head coach Norv Turner will go but it's hard to imagine Turner keeping more than six -- if he keeps that many.

Porter and Rice are certainly safe. Rice might be entering his 20th season but still has enough left as a No. 2 or 3 receiver. The question is which one of the rest of the group do the Raiders let go? One option would be releasing one of the rookies, Francis or Morant, and putting them on the practice squad. However, that would be a big problem because they would have to clear waivers and both are playing too well for another team not to pick them up.

Here's a closer look:

Ronald Curry: Oakland has been high on Curry throughout training camp. If fact, the coaches elevated him to No. 3 shortly after releasing Brown. Curry has not made the big plays that Gabriel and Francis have and he could conceivably drop below them.

However, Curry has done nothing to hurt himself and the Raiders have invested a lot of time in Curry since converting him from college quarterback to wide receiver. Therefore, it makes it highly unlikely that Oakland would let him go.

Doug Gabriel: It's easy to see why the Raiders have been so high on him throughout training camp and the offseason. Gabriel has caught two touchdown passes in the preseason, coming from 34 and 89 yards from Kerry Collins. The Raiders clearly plan on utilizing the long ball under Turner. Based on Gabriel's preseason performance, Oakland might have found a deep threat.

Carlos Francis: He sat out the Raiders 21-20 loss to Dallas with a hamstring injury but his performance in the team's 33-30 win over San Francisco is hard to ignore. Francis showed his tremendous burst of speed in scoring on a 36-yard touchdown catch and an 86-yard kickoff return.

Johnnie Morant: He has looked solid late in the game against both San Francisco and Dallas but the fact that he has not entered either game until early in the fourth quarter makes it hard to truly evaluate him. Of the "young" receivers, he would be the mostly likely to be the odd man out but it's not likely.

Alvis Whitted: He has made big plays against both Dallas and San Francisco but it's not totally out of the question that Whitted would be the odd man out because he has been in the NFL for six seasons and the Raiders have invested a lot of time with Curry, Gabriel, Francis and Morant, thinking they have an upside.

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