Two games, one target: Former Pro Bowler Hunter Renfrow trying to make sense of Raiders role

HENDERSON, Nev. -- So you think you're frustrated by Hunter Renfrow, author of a triple-digit-catch Pro Bowl season two years ago, becoming an invisible man in the Las Vegas Raiders' new-look offense two games into the 2023 season?

Imagine being Renfrow himself.

Not that the soft-spoken Renfrow would ever lash out about it. Rather, he took a more demure tone after this past Sunday's 38-10 loss at the Buffalo Bills, a game in which the Raiders looked crisp early in driving 75 yards in five plays to score a touchdown on the opening possession.

It was also a game in which Renfrow, after seven quarters to open the season, was finally targeted ... with 3:48 to play in Week 2.

And Renfrow made the most of the opportunity, hauling in the pass from Jimmy Garoppolo on the skinny post route for a 23-yard gain. But he was also open a few other times, running free down the middle of the field, to no avail.

So what is Renfrow taking from his lack of targets early in the season, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town for the home opener Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, Allegiant Stadium, NBC)?

"I'm not sure," he said softly. "I'm just trying to do my job, to be honest. Yeah. And then just trying to have a good week of practice, and then, hopefully, the ball finds me on Sundays. That's all I can do."

Told it must be frustrating to put in that work and the ball still not find him, Renfrow shrugged.

"It's frustrating when we're not doing what we need to do as an offense, you know, and I feel like I can help some," he said. "But the frustrating part is not moving the ball down the field like we're capable of doing."

Raiders coach Josh McDaniels agreed.

"Hunter's done his job the right way, and a lot of times the passing game is a function of us doing the right thing," McDaniels said. "And also, the defense gets a vote. So, depending on the coverages they choose to play, it may open up some other things or it may give us an opportunity to throw a person like Hunter or the tight ends the ball inside. There's been some missed opportunities on our part, but I don't think that's a function of Hunter. We got to do a lot of things better. He should have gotten the ball more than he did [in Buffalo].

"I think there were more opportunities than that, but protection has to be good, reading the coverage has to be good, blitz pickup. There's a lot of things that will happen before any receiver or tight end will get the football. Much to improve upon, but I'm not concerned about Hunter."

Fair enough.

In Buffalo, the offense went to sleep after that initial scoring drive, finishing with only 240 yards, just 13 first downs and losing the time of possession battle 40:04-19:56.

In fact, the Raiders ran just 13 plays on offense in the second half and 39 total to Buffalo's 72.

But when it came to Renfrow in particular having just one catch, on the one target, in two games, that seems, well, strange.

Remember, Renfrow had 103 catches for 1,038 yards, 51 first downs and nine touchdown catches in 2021.

And he was rewarded with a two-year, $32 million contract extension before last season. In fact, his $13.126 million salary cap hit for 2023 is the 13th-highest among receivers this season, per ESPN Roster Management.

To be fair, even if Renfrow was the second or third option in Buffalo, what with fellow receiver Jakobi Meyers out with the concussion he suffered in the season opener at Denver, Garoppolo was under such duress that he had little time to scan the field for him.

"We never really got control of the line of scrimmage, the entire day," McDaniels said.

"We need to get everybody involved. ... We need more production from everybody. We have other guys out there, and we're going to need a lot of production from a lot of people here if we're going to be a good offense."

An offense like the one that was humming on the opening drive against the Bills.

"We definitely did [start fast], and then we just kind of shot ourselves in the foot with some turnovers and some penalties," Renfrow said, "and then they had some long drives and stuff."

More stuff?

Meyers is still in the NFL's concussion protocol, All-Pro receiver Davante Adams took a nasty blow to the face in Buffalo, and Pittsburgh will be in Las Vegas before the Raiders know it.

Yeah, the Raiders may not have a choice but to make Renfrow more involved against the Steelers.