Las Vegas Raiders' Henry Ruggs III uses slight, real or imagined, as motivation against Miami Dolphins

LAS VEGAS -- Things were said.

Insulting things. Degrading things. Things that, well, got under the skin of Henry Ruggs III and gave the Las Vegas Raiders' second-year receiver some "extra fire" against the Miami Dolphins.

Things that, apparently, could not be repeated.

"I don't like to say too much, I don't like to start nothing," Ruggs said, "and I was just ready to play and prove who I was."

Mere gamesmanship by a heralded secondary? Course of game week trash talk?

Ruggs would not elaborate. Instead, he let his play do his talking in Las Vegas' wild 31-28 overtime victory on Sunday that got the Raiders off to their first 3-0 start since the 2002 Super Bowl season.

The Raiders are the second team since OT was instituted in 1974 to start 3-0 with two wins coming in overtime, along with the 1995 Kansas City Chiefs, and are the first team ever to win their first three games against teams that won at least 10 games the previous season.

Ruggs had a huge hand in that ... two, in fact.

Because here's the thing -- while Ruggs is a speed guy, as evidenced by his 4.27 seconds in the 40 at the combine, he is developing into a more well-rounded pass-catcher with every snap.

Or did you miss his athletic 23-yard pickup over the middle against the Dolphins' two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard in the second quarter?

What about his 21-yard gain later in that drive to get the Raiders inside the 10-yard line, and the unnecessary roughness penalty he endured from a frustrated Jevon Holland?

Surely you saw his 16-yard catch down the left sideline in overtime that kept a Raiders drive alive for their first field goal of the extra period.

Ruggs finished with four catches for 78 yards.

"The fun thing for me is I see these young guys really coming to life," said Raiders coach Jon Gruden, referring to Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, who had three receptions for 89 yards.

"I see a different look in their eyes. I see a different confidence. And now they're starting to demand the ball, so now they're starting to get on my nerves a little bit. But they're going to be a great duo."

Gruden was kidding ... about the nerves part. The great duo? It starts with Ruggs' speed and opposing secondaries having to account for it, and continues with Edwards' strength.

But on this day, it was about Ruggs, the much-debated first receiver drafted at No. 12 overall in 2020. He came into the game with, as he put it, a little extra "fire" because of the disrespect thrown his way.

Real, or imagined.

"He's proven that, as well as he can run that way [horizontally], he plays a vertical game, too," said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. "I'm sure you've seen some of his basketball highlights. The guy's unbelievable at going up and getting the ball."

Especially against Howard, who, Carr said, is a top three cornerback in the league after being named first-team All-Pro last season when he led the NFL with 10 interceptions.

Not that it mattered much to the stoic, but obviously bristled, Ruggs, who was asked if he actually enjoyed the trash talking that accompanies football.

"I'm not sure," he said with a small smile. "Different guys say different things for different reasons. I mean, I guess that helps some people's confidence. But, I mean, honestly, I'm not a big talker. I go out and just play my game, day in and day out. You might see me chirping back and forth if someone says something to me in the game, but that's about it.

"I feel like I'm a playmaker and I can make plays with the best in this league, no matter who they are, no matter what their name is. I don't look too deep into it. I just go out and play my game every week."

No disrespect intended.