When you look at the stable of wide receivers on the roster, the name least likely to jump out at you as a potential difference maker would be Greg Little. That should be expected when you have a lengthy history of inconsistent play and dropped passes. Suffice it to say, when a team that is utterly starved for talented receivers – like the Cleveland Browns – cuts you loose, it’s typically not a terrific endorsement of your career prospects.
Raiders GM Reggie Mckenzie jumped at the chance to snag Little once the Browns had parted ways with him back in May. It was a move that had most of the league – not to mention more than a few of the Oakland faithful – scratching their heads, if not laughing hysterically. Claiming Little seemed to be about as ridiculous as lavishing tens of millions of dollars on St. Louis Rams OT Rodger Saffold had been – a mistake that was thankfully rectified.
But where Little is concerned, it may be McKenzie who winds up having the last laugh.
Through the first few days of camp, it’s been Little who has stood out among Oakland’s receiving corps. He’s made a number of very difficult catches and has used his size to battle the Raiders’ DB’s for the ball – hauling in most everything thrown his way. Though he’s dropped one catchable ball, Little has looked nothing like the talented, yet horribly inconsistent, receiver who made a habit of dropping catchable balls he’d been with the Browns.
To this point, Little has impressed the coaching staff with his vastly improved focus, an improvement he spoke about with ESPN.com.
“When I’m watching SportsCenter or a movie, my homeboy is throwing tennis balls at me. It develops that hand-eye coordination like a basketball player has. It was what I needed to focus on, rather than beating myself down running routes, because I’m a guy that likes to work until I can’t run anymore. But at this point in my career, I needed to work on my concentration and focus on the little tedious things such as catching tennis balls. This is what I should’ve been doing the whole time.”
If Little’s focus and consistency truly has improved and he performs to the level he has in the early days of camp, McKenzie may have found himself a real gem. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Little is a big, physical receiver who can stretch the field as well as battle for balls in the air. If he can continue to excel throughout camp and the preseason, he could give QB Matt Schaub one more valuable weapon to utilize.
Little has been singled out for praise by HC Dennis Allen several times already. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Allen expounded upon his earlier comments.
“He’s an outstanding talent, and since he’s been here, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and been a real pro about doing his job.”
Though James Jones and Rod Streater are virtual locks to be the team’s top receiving tandem, the competition to fill out the remaining WR slots is intense. Andre Holmes, Juron Criner, Brice Butler, and even Denarius Moore have had some good moments in camp. But it’s been Little who’s been the most consistently good receiver to this point.
It’s early yet and until we see him in game action, we won’t know if Little truly has figured it all out and can begin to fulfill those flashes of promise he showed in Cleveland. In his three seasons there, he did snag 155 passes for more than 1,800 yards – a fact that’s easy to forget amongst the flurry of dropped passes.
But if he maintains his current trajectory, Little may well find himself in Oakland’s receiving rotation and make Reggie McKenzie look like one of the smartest kids in class.