If you're looking for an interesting sleeper team this year, you may be surprised at what the Oakland Raiders could accomplish in 2010. Yes, the Raiders. No, I'm not kidding. Though the franchise has been quite the punch line in the past few seasons, recent additions to a strong front seven, a very solid 2010 draft, the acquisition of quarterback Jason Campbell(notes), and a weak AFC West could combine to give Raiders faithful something to cheer about for the first time in years.
And if you're looking for a sleeper player in either fantasy or reality football, second-year receiver Louis Murphy(notes) is one to watch. The fourth-round pick out of Florida started his rookie season strong, wasn't targeted as much in midseason, but stepped up near the end, especially in a 27-24 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13, when he caught four passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
He finished that rookie season with 34 catches for 521 yards and four touchdowns, but it's a good bet you'll see those numbers increasing in 2010.
In Part 1 of an exclusive interview with Shutdown Corner, Murphy talks about his NFL beginnings, being under the radar, how the Raiders came calling, and the anatomy of his first big professional play.
Shutdown Corner: You were an under-the-radar guy going back to your days at Florida, where there wasonly so much media attention and most of it was going to Tim Tebow(notes) and Percy Harvin(notes). Do you feel you got a fair shake from NFL teams when it came time to assess your abilities?
Louis Murphy: Yeah. I mean, I'm the type of person where I really don't look back on stuff and regret anything [or] look back at stuff and make excuses. I don't want to make excuses about my draft status or whatnot, but I do kind of feel that I was overlooked by teams. Just because playing under the limelight of Percy [Harvin] and [Tim] Tebow, but you know, it is what it is, so [I] can't complain.
He's [Tebow] always handled it pretty good. He's always stayed humble through the process, and I know it's just a lot of pressure put upon him, and I just pray that he handles it, which I know he will. I know he'll handle the pressure fine. Just a lot of media surrounding him, and especially being a rookie, it's tough with that pressure on your back. So I think he'll be fine, and I just pray the best for him. We play him twice a year, so those are the only two times I won't be praying for him (laughs).
LM: I didn't even think the Raiders were looking at me. I didn't take a visit to them ... I visited with them at the Combine, but I didn't actually go to Oakland to visit. I was really shocked when they took me after they took Heyward-Bey. I thought, I had a list, and I crossed the Raiders off, I was like, ‘Oh, they got a receiver, so I know I won't be going there'. So when they picked me up in the fourth round, it was just, it was shocking, you know, but we have a chance to be two young receivers and grow together in the game as a receiving duo, so I'm glad that I'm with the Raiders.
SC: Talk about your relationship with receivers coach Sanjay Lal - word is, you guys really hit it off in a pre-draft ccouting combine conversation.
LM: Yeah, I talked to Sanjay at the combine for awhile. We had talked. I thought they had their receiver who they wanted, so I was just looking for another team. I thought I was going to the Patriots, and the Raiders traded up, traded to that pick. I saw the area code when they called, and I thought, ‘I think I'm going to Cali', so it kind of all happened fast. The Patriots were really interested. Coach Belichick knows [Florida] Coach [Urban] Meyer, and asked a lot about me. I talked with them on the phone. So pretty much when the Patriots came up in the fourth round, I thought that's where I might be going."
Me and Sanjay's relationship is going along well. He's a good receivers coach. He's really detailed. He's taken my game to the next level. He really focuses on the little things. He's got the natural ability to speak and let it go, but he really focuses on my details. How good are my routes coming out in and out of my breaks. I thought I had it all, you know, just like every rookie. When it really broke down on film, coming in and out of breaks at the top of the route is pretty much the difference between a good receiver and a great receiver. Being able to run a route and beat a DB at the top of your route, so we've been focusing on that a lot. We're focusing on burst after the catch, trying to score on every play. So he's really on me about that, and I'm thankful to have him as a receivers coach. He's really laid-back, but he's a stickler for a lot of the little things, a lot of the fundamentals to the game where sometimes a player could take it out of their repertoire and just go off their natural ability.
That's what I thought it was going to be, but it's actually a balanced offense. Especially with [new quarterbacks coach] Hue Jackson coming in, we had a lot of new different plays, a lot of new different things. We're actually using the entire route tree, not just running go routes. So we have a lot of things that's going to change up, too, in our routes that are going to help us with the deep ball, so I really think it's going to be a great year this year. Especially with the roster we have, and I think it's really going to give me a chance to get open, so I'm excited.
SC: What has working with [new offensive coordinator Hue] Jackson been like?
LM: Oh man, it's been great. There's an intensity to practice there that's pretty great. Always on high adrenaline, always challenging the defense to make us better, and for us to make them better. It's a totally different vibe with Hue than last year. He's really a great coach. All the good things you've heard about him are pretty much true. He changes up a lot with the line and the running backs and using different guys at different positions, so I think he's going to cause some more problems for defenses this year."
SC: You caught a huge fourth-down touchdown pass on a blown coverage against the Chargers in Week 1 that gave the Raiders the lead. What was going through your head when you realized you were going to be so wide open?
(Note: You can see the play detailed here.)
LM: We had gone through that play over and over in practice. [Coach Lal] told me that this was going to be a play that was really going to work against the Chargers because of the coverage they play. But I didn't think it was going to work like that (laughs). When I came to the line, [cornerback Antonio Cromartie(notes) was standing in front of me, and I saw him backing up. He was at about 12 to 13 yards, and my first break was at 14 yards. So when I took the break, I figured he'd keep covering me. It was quarters coverage, and I saw the safety cheating down. Cromartie jumped the out route, because we had been running out routes at about 14 yards, So, when I broke, I thought that there was no way the safety could come up and then drop all the way back. So, when I saw that out of quarters coverage, I knew that it was going to be a touchdown.
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