Darrius Heyward-Bey Will Be Carson Palmer’s Security Blanket

The Oakland Raiders only kept five wide receivers on the 53-man roster, and that could prove problematic for the team in Week 1. Of the five young receivers that made the team, there is a possibility Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Juron Criner will not play or will be limited on Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.

Ford is battling back from an injury to the same foot that caused him to miss six games last season, and Moore has been nursing a hamstring since the very start of training camp. Criner has been limited in practice this week due to a sore ankle.

It’s a good thing Carson Palmer will be able to rely on his security blanket, Darrius Heyward-Bey, to do the heavy lifting in the passing game in Week 1 and beyond.

Heyward-Bey had a breakout year in 2011, with 64 receptions for 975 yards to go along with three 100-yard games. Far too many people assumed Moore would be the No. 1 target in Oakland, when the evidence may suggest Heyward-Bey was and will continue to be the go-to wide receiver.

Heyward-Bey can stretch the defense horizontally because he runs great routes and has learned how to use his speed to his advantage. Heyward-Bey can also beat press coverage, which is a skill necessary for Heyward-Bey, who lines up on the line of scrimmage and doesn’t get the added cushion that Moore is afforded on the opposite side.

The common criticism of Heyward-Bey is his hands, and although he may never look natural catching the ball, it’s hard to criticize the results. Heyward-Bey didn’t drop a lot of passes in 2011, and securing the catch and getting positive yardage is what the game is all about.


Fighting for the Deep Ball

Another criticism of Heyward-Bey has been his poor performance catching deep passes. According to ProFootballFocus, Heyward-Bey was targeted 22 times on deep passes last season and caught just three.


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