As the Broncos prepare for their Week 3 matchup with Oakland, the Raiders’ receiving corps certainly has the attention of Denver’s secondary unit.
Two rookies, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, top Oakland’s depth chart at the position. While it’s unique to see two first-year players designated as a team’s No.1 and No. 2 receivers so early into their young careers, Champ Bailey said they are slotted in those spots for a reason.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” Bailey said. “Two rookies starting — it’s a rare thing, but those guys are capable.”
Their biggest asset?
“Speed,” Bailey said without hesitation. “You’re talking about speed, they’ve definitely got it. Young, fresh legs and a quarterback that can really sling it. They present a lot of problems.”
Through two games, Murphy has been the more productive of the rookie counterparts, totaling six receptions for 113 yards. One of his most notable plays was a 57-yard touchdown that helped the Raiders win at Kansas City in Week 2.
Heyward-Bey, the club’s 2009 first-round pick, hasn’t been quite as productive. After going without a reception in Week 1, the two-time All-ACC performer snagged one pass for 18 yards against the Chiefs.
Head Coach Josh McDaniels believes the wide receiver position is one of the hardest in terms of coming into the league and making an immediate impact after jumping from the collegiate ranks. With Heyward-Bey and Murphy already making waves in Oakland, he attributes much of their success to their talent levels and how the Oakland coaching staff has used the pair.
And like Bailey, the duos’ speed has caught the eye of McDaniels.
“They are both very dangerous players,” McDaniels said. “That to me is the biggest thing. They have great speed and they run them down the field plenty. You’ve got to be on your toes. I don’t care which one of them you’re guarding, you can name any of the receivers on their roster and it’s the same thing — 4.36, 4.29, 4.26 (40-yard dash times) – and they are all 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. I think they are making the adjustment nicely. They’ve made some big plays already this year and we’ve got to try and prevent both of them from making big plays on Sunday.”
Peyton Hillis’ resiliency was on full display Sunday afternoon during the Broncos home opener. After Hillis fumbled the opening kickoff against Cleveland, he did anything but sulk about the play. Instead, he remained focused and when McDaniels called his number for a goal-line carry early in the fourth quarter, he made up for his early error by rumbling into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run.
“He put me back in there, had faith and confidence in me, and I made the most of that opportunity,” Hillis said.
McDaniels said turnovers happen to even the best returns in the game, and he still believes Hillis’ brings a lot to the team on special teams and offense.
“I do still trust him with the ball,” he said. “He obviously made an error on the first kickoff but that happens to most skilled players in their lives. But he was our goal-line back last week and we weren’t going to hesitate to put him back in there. We do have great faith in him.”
– Zach Eisendrath, DenverBroncos.com