Throughout training camp and the preseason, all of the hype surrounding the Oakland Raiders’ passing game involved rookie wide receiver Brice Butler.
A 2013 seventh-round pick out of San Diego State, the young pass-catcher consistently turned heads in Oakland. Whether he was hauling in highlight reel catches during practice or picking up huge chunks of yards during the Raiders’ preseason bouts, Butler was inserting himself into the “biggest steal of the 2013 NFL Draft” conversation.
Then the regular season began, and Butler disappeared.
In the Raiders’ first two games of the 2013 campaign, Butler has served in the slot receiver role alongside Rod Streater and Denarius Moore. Despite seeing the field on 59 total snaps (38 pass, 21 run blocking), the rookie has been targeted only four times. He’s caught three of those targets for only 18 yards, and has generally been a non-factor for the Oakland offense.
Meanwhile, No. 4 wide receiver Jacoby Ford has nearly matched his production despite fewer snaps (30) and a lingering knee issue. While Ford is a more polished part of the Raiders’ passing game, it’s a bit curious that a healthy Butler hasn’t been able to outplay the injury-prone speedster.
It’s completely understandable that Butler is still adjusting to the speed and physicality that comes with playing in the NFL. The Raiders likely didn’t expect the raw rookie to be a big part of the offense early, but he should still be contributing more considering his respectable amount of snaps. Instead, he’s basically been invisible.
It’s still early and there’s plenty of time for things to turn around, but the Raiders should be looking for increased production from Butler in the coming weeks. If not, expect second-year receiver Juron Criner to get back in the mix.
There’s no doubt that Butler has the talent to be a playmaker for the Raiders, but he might need more time to develop at this point.