Interim head coach Tony Sparano said embattled wide receiver Denarius Moore would be given a clean slate. Most assumed that meant that if Moore wasn’t given his starting role back that at least he would still play a fairly big role in the offense. After all, people have been calling for more of a deep threat and that is what Sparano gave them in his first game as head coach. But he did not do it by using the Raider best known for his downfield prowess. Rather, Sparano leaned on two relatively unproven players in Andre Holmes and Brice Butler.
Holmes and James Jones received the most snaps of any wide receiver with 49 apiece, Butler received 25 snaps and Moore got 23 snaps. Newcomer Kenbrell Thompkins played two snaps and Vincent Brown did not get any. The snap count makes it appear as though Moore and Butler were both in the running for the third wide receiver position, but the targets tell a different story. Holmes led the team with eight targets, Jones had seven and Butler had five while Moore only had one target. Meanwhile, Darren McFadden had four targets and Marcel Reece was targeted three times by Derek Carr.
So rather than giving Moore a clean slate from this season, he is giving him a completely clean slate. That means the good plays he made during training camp and the preseason are not earning him a major role during the regular season. But it also means that his painful tendency to drop balls during the season isn’t keeping him in the doghouse. Sparano appears willing to let Moore be a part of the game plan, but only if he earns it.
The only target Moore received on the day was a good one from every perspective. It was a great call by the coaching staff and Moore did well with his opportunity. His one and only play came on a wide receiver screen. It was a short quick pass to Moore who wove through a few defenders for a nine-yard gain. It was nothing special, but it played to Moore’s strengths. It was a short pass that was easy to catch and allowed him to use his athleticism to pick up some yards after the catch.
This is likely the best way to handle the situation. Moore’s combination of speed and athleticism is better than any wide receiver on the team and represents a real threat. But his inability to catch the football and clear fear of getting hit create problems. So what is the reasonable solution? Use Moore in situations where he can prosper rather than putting him in the situation where he is more likely to struggle. Is that ideal? No, you want a wide receiver who isn’t so limited. But it makes less sense to keep an offensive threat on the bench when you have so few weapons to threaten with. Using Moore in ways that play to his strengths is the best way to keep him involved without being too much of a liability, and that appears to be what Sparano and crew plan on doing from here on out.