Raiders Film Room: Ryan Grant’s versitility could unlock Raider’s offense

Oakland’s signing of free agent wide receiver Ryan Grant did not attract the level of attention that accompanied some of the other wide out acquisitions this offseason. Of course, that is to be expected with talented players like Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams joining the position group, but even though his arrival may not have garnered the same level of fanfare, Ryan’s skillset could play a role if those two big names living up to expectations this season.

Now Grant isn’t going to “wow” anybody with his measurables having run a 4.59 40-yard dash at 6’0″ tall and 204 pounds. His stats also don’t jump out as he has compiled 119 receptions for 1,319 yards and seven touchdowns over a five year career. In fact, he has not registered a single game where he has broken 100 receiving yards. But Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock didn’t necessarily sign Ryan for what he has not done. They brought him in for what he can do, which in his case, is provide a reliable target that can be employed in multiple positions.

Being able to line up in any position is going to be important for the offense to prevent themselves from becoming predictable. Tyrell Williams is a big bodied, vertical threat that will get moved around at times and will likely see a good number of his snaps come from the outside “X” receiver position. Gruden has talked about moving Antonio Brown to make him more difficult to game plan against. That will mean he is switched between the “Z”, which is typically lined up outside, and the “F” which is typically the slot receiver. This is where position versatility helps prevent the offense from tipping their hand.

Even though he will not be the biggest or fastest player on the field, Grant has the physical skillset to play outside of the numbers as well as in the slot. This first play of the clip highlights Grant’s ability to line up outside, read zone coverages, and find open space. Ryan recognizes the Cover-3 defense and breaks his route off behind the flat defender and linebacker but in front of the dropping safety. A wide receiver has to be able to read zones like a quarterback to have success in the NFL.

Grant also showed a good awareness of the depth in his routes. That depth as well as timing had to be perfect on the second play in this clip. He needs to break his route deeper than linebacker level but in front of the safeties. He also has to time it so that he passes under the slot receiver who is clearing the “Mike” linebacker that is playing the deep center of this “Tampa-2” coverage. The need for routes to be consistently run at the same depth and speed is often overlooked but is paramount to getting the timing down with the quarterback.

With the firepower this offense has, they may see a lot of similar zone coverages this season. There aren’t many defensive backfields with enough talent to stay with Gruden’s receivers in man coverage. Defensive coordinators may also be wary of attempting to do so and risk getting burned for a long touchdown.

In recent years the Raiders have struggled to field a wide receiver group that could consistently beat man coverage. That will not be the case this season. Both Brown and Williams have a proven track record and Grant has shown he is more than capable, as well. He makes up for any lack of straight line speed with quality shiftiness that he utilizes very economically.

The first play of this clip highlights Grant executing that plan and being rewarded with one of those seven career touchdowns. Grant is going to eat the defensive backs original cushion, give a solid jab step inside, then beat him outside to the back corner. He also flashes some good hands and footwork to make the contested catch and come down in bounds. With all of the attention and bracket coverages the other receivers are going to get, Grant should see plenty of these one on one, red-zone opportunities as the season unfolds.

Just as he does against zone coverage, Ryan shows some good route-running awareness against man coverages as well. Most notably are the third and fourth plays in this clip. On the third play, Grant is running a 15-yard out route. Notice how he runs his route toward the center of the field to give himself more room to work back to the sideline. Young recievers can overlook that advantage and instead run the route at the numbers which doesn’t leave much room for the quarterback to place the pass as they break towards the sideline. He also works back to the ball as he runs his break which prevents the defender from having an angle to undercut the route and possibly secure an interception. Quarterbacks tend to be appreciative of recievers who protect them which, in turn, can lead to more passes coming in their direction.

On the fourth play, Grant reacts to the defenders leverage. This coverage is a “Zone Match Tampa-2” which is a zone coverage that can transition to man coverage once the reciever’s routes are defined. Grant is the reciever at the bottom of the screen running the “In” route marked with the red arrow. If Grant was running a vertical route or one breaking outside, the cornerback lined up across from him would have covered him. Because his route broke inside within the first 5-yards, the outside corner makes an “Under” call which tells the inside corner to take him. The outside corner then takes the vertical route run by the #2 receiver.

As soon as that inside corner jumped Ryan’s route, he broke back outside showing good awareness of the defenders leverage. It only results in a few yards picked up but those yards are better than a sack or incompletion. Grant has shown the physical skill set as well as the cognitive ability to play outside as well as in the slot. Putting him in the lineup should make it difficult for the defense to predict the formation or position the recievers will line up at as they are deciding what coverages to call.

Ryan did have a few drops like the ones in this clip. On a positive note, though, they seemed to be mostly concentration-related from trying to run before actually making the catch as well as having some traffic around him. Overall there really wasn’t anything that would be overly concerning from a hands standpoint watching Grant, but Gruden isn’t going to take excuses for passes hitting the ground. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that is going to be patient with a role player not securing the catch if it happens repetitively. Grant will need to make sure he looks the ball in on a consistent basis.

The Raiders brought in a couple of marquee names to upgrade a wide receiver group that has struggled in recent years. There is no doubt that they will be featured and receive the lion’s share of Derek Carr’s pass attempts, but they can’t carry the offense on their own. Role players will need to step up and produce. If Ryan Grant can improve upon the skillset he has already proven to possesses, coupled with the exceptional talent that surrounds him, he may just break that elusive 100-yard mark this season.


Twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL

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2 thoughts on “Raiders Film Room: Ryan Grant’s versitility could unlock Raider’s offense

  1. as someone who watched Grant a lot in his career this is a player raider fans are going to like. He gets the job done and Gruden will be able to trust him to learn the offense

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