The past couple days, I took a look at Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes' 2013 tape and charted all of his 53 targets in the passing game. I also watched 206 of his offensive snaps, including every play he lined up for from his breakout Week 13 on Thanksgiving Day through Week 15.
Holmes played his college ball at small school Hillsdale College in Michigan. He holds the school's record for receiving yards and set multiple records across his final two seasons when he reeled in 181 passes for 2,444 yards and 17 touchdowns. Holmes was also a member of the track and field team, competing in the triple jump.
Following his senior season in 2010, Holmes played in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game and was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. At the Combine, he measured in at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds and ran a 4.51 forty with a 35-inch vertical and 10-foot-10 broad jump. You can't build a more physically-gifted receiver. With all that said, Holmes still went undrafted. He signed a free-agent deal with the Vikings shortly after the draft and spent the summer with Minnesota before getting his walking papers in August. The Cowboys signed Holmes to their practice squad a week later. He spent the season there before getting in on 17 offensive snaps and making two catches for 11 yards across seven games for Dallas in 2012. Jerry Jones then let Holmes go, and he inked a futures pact with the Patriots and spent five months on the roster before landing back on the street in May 2013. The Raiders scooped him up, and we're at where we're at right now.
Below is what I observed while watching Holmes' second-half breakout, followed by an attempt to glance into his NFL future.
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The Raiders' 2013 Offense
OC Greg Olson took over the reins after Greg Knapp was fired, and he led the Raiders to a 12th-place finish in rushing, 24th in passing, and 23rd in total yards. Three different quarterbacks started at least one game for Oakland last season, compiling a 4-12 record. Olson had to alter his game plan weekly depending on who was starting under center. If it was Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders leaned heavily on the running game and dual-threat Pryor's legs brought to the table. When it was Matt McGloin, the offense functioned more like an NFL offense. Olson has a West Coast offense background, but he also likes to dabble with run-heavy, throw-deep tendencies. And he had the receivers and running back to do it with last season in Oakland; he just didn't have the quarterback that could make the throws consistently enough.
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The NFL handed Holmes a four-game PEDs suspension last July, so he sat out the first month of the season and wasn't activated until Week 6 when he took the roster spot of Matt Flynn. Holmes really got his chance when Denarius Moore sat out Weeks 12-14 with an injury. He was an every-down receiver from there on out. Our good friends at Pro Football Focus had Holmes down for 393 offensive snaps played on the year. As mentioned above, I charted 206 of those -- 101 wide left (49 percent), 92 wide right (44.7 percent), and 13 in the slot (6.3 percent). As we can see, Holmes is your prototypical long-striding, outside "X" receiver. He often went against the other team's top corner, especially over the final two months. Holmes saw Kansas City's Sean Smith twice, Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor, Tennessee's Jason McCourty, Dallas' Brandon Carr, the Jets' Antonio Cromartie, and San Diego's Shareece Wright. Smith appeared to give him the most trouble as a bigger corner. Holmes took Carr to the woodshed on Thanksgiving.
Target and Route Breakdown
I charted Holmes with 53 targets (including penalties). 20 came on first down, 13 on second down, 19 on third, and one on fourth. Holmes hauled in 25 passes -- 20 moved the chains -- for 431 yards and his first career touchdown. Of his 28 targets that weren't hauled in, I credited Holmes with three drops. Seven of Holmes' targets came in the red zone, and he was stopped at the one-yard line twice. He could have easily scored four-to-five more touchdowns.
On Holmes' 53 targets, I jotted down what kind of route he ran. He ran 11 "go" routes, seven "in" routes, six double-moves, five comebacks, four crossing routes, four hitches, three slants, three outs, three drags, two posts, two corner routes, two back-shoulder fades, and one sit-down route.
Holmes was asked to run a lot of routes of the intermediate-to-deep variety, which is obviously part of the reason he caught fewer than 50 percent of the passes that came his direction. Also working against Holmes was Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin's inability to get the ball to him in stride or at chest level. On one instance, Pryor overthrew Holmes on a deep ball when had a step or two on Ike Taylor that may have gone for a long touchdown. Pryor was 4-for-15 throwing to Holmes, while McGloin was 21-for-38. I noticed that Holmes was often McGloin's first read. He knew all he had to do was throw it up to the high-flying Holmes to have a chance at a big play.
Where Holmes Needs to Improve
Holmes struggled catching the ball the closer he was to the line of scrimmage. The ball got on top of him quickly a handful of times. That's not unusual for a young receiver coming from a small school where all he simply had to do was run by defensive backs. Holmes should get better in the short game the more reps he sees in practice.
In his Thanksgiving Day breakout against the Cowboys in Week 13, Holmes dropped a pass on a simple second-and-five drag route. Again in Week 15 in San Diego, he muffed an easy three-yard touchdown on a jump ball that hit him right in the hands over the middle of the end zone.
This cycles back to Holmes' struggles in the short passing game, but he also needs to work on his route running. Sure, Holmes can run the go route with the best of them, but the more polished he becomes, the more dangerous he'll be and the more balls he'll see come his way if his quarterback can trust him. Holmes and Pryor had a miscommunication in Week 14 against the Jets, though I'd lean toward placing the majority of the blame on Pryor on this one. It was just clear over the course of the season that Holmes was most comfortable blazing by corners and using his height to win.
What I Liked
There's much more to like than dislike about Holmes' game. He has a huge catch radius, basketball leaping ability, soft hands, and a good work ethic. Holmes was bringing up the rear of the Raiders' receiver depth chart the first half of the season. He was playing special teams, and in Week 10 against the Giants made two big-time hustle plays that directly led to him getting more chances on offense in Week 11. Versus the G-Men, Holmes recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff before later making a touchdown-saving tackle on a 65-yard interception return by Terrell Thomas.
In Week 11 against the Texans, Holmes reeled in his first pass of the season by beating CB Brandon Harris' jam at the line and high-pointing the ball behind Harris and in front of big-hitting S D.J. Swearinger down the right side for a 33-yard pickup. In the same game, Holmes blew by Harris again on a third-and-eight for a would-be 40-yard gain down the sideline but could only get one foot in bounds. Holmes' most impressive catch of the season was a Week 15 grab over the top of Chiefs CB Marcus Cooper. On a third-and-seven in the third quarter of a 35-24 game, Holmes skied over the top of Cooper to secure a one-handed grab and a new set of downs for the offense. The dude can jump out of the building, plain and simple.
The Raiders have a new quarterback in Matt Schaub, and Holmes was running ahead of Denarius Moore in three-wide sets this spring behind Nos. 1 and 2 receivers James Jones and Rod Streater. The coaching staff has soured on Moore, while Holmes was easily the Silver and Black's best receiver over the final month last season. He very well may be the most talented receiver in camp for Oakland. Jones is a 30-year-old who doesn't have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football anymore. He's a physical, chain-mover who's at his best with a legit playmaker opposite him. Enter Holmes. Holmes made a number of highlight reel plays in 2013, and should push for significant snaps sooner rather than later.
While Schaub's merely an average or slightly below average starting quarterback, he's still better than Pryor and McGloin. Also working in Holmes' favor is the Raiders' schedule. They face the three playoff teams from the AFC West twice each and play the entire NFC West. That's a recipe for losses, which in turn means playing plenty of catch-up football in garbage time by slinging the football around the yard against soft coverages. As we saw with Cecil Shorts in 2012 with the Jaguars, highly-talented receivers on bad football teams can fill the stat line. It just so happens that Raiders OC Greg Olson was on that 2012 Jacksonville coaching staff. The run-heavy, throw-deep strategy Olson likes to play around with will likely come back into play with Schaub and Holmes. In an ideal world, Jones will be the sure-handed red-zone threat, Rod Streater will man the slot, and Holmes will be the big-play machine on the outside. Don't overlook Holmes. You can get Holmes in the later rounds in re-draft, and he's worth grabbing in best-ball formats with the potential to pop off any given week.
For Dynasty purposes, Holmes is a definite hold and could likely be acquired for pennies. He just turned 26 last month. Raiders rookie QB Derek Carr has a bazooka arm. His big arm coupled with Holmes' long speed is an intriguing combination. With Jones on the wrong side of 30, Moore entering the final year of his contract and a possible trade candidate, Holmes could develop into the No. 1 receiver for the Raiders as soon as this season. I'm buying stock in Holmes.