The David Ausberry experiment is entering its second and perhaps most crucial year. A onetime highly recruited wide receiver out of Lemoore High Ausberry is trying to transition to becoming an NFL tight end in a league where the position is suddenly a huge weapon in the passing game.
For the Raiders they desperately need more production from their tight ends in 2012. Zach Miller was the team’s best receiver for years until departing for Seattle last season. Kevin Boss got one shot at taking over and was shown the exit after a subpar and injured filled showing in 2011.
Now the position is ripe for a camp battle with Ausberry in the mix to see more than just the two balls thrown his way during his rookie campaign.
What makes this year so critical for Ausberry is that he’s got to impress the Reggie McKenzie regime. They didn’t draft Ausberry and we’ve already seen what has happened to some of the other Al Davis projects. As a 7th round pick its not like Ausberry has the luxury of knowing his contract will keep him around like Rolando McClain so his game will have to do all the talking.
In addition the Raiders have already started looking for more options at the position going as far as to try and convert a collegiate hoopster into an NFL tight end.
The good news for Ausberry is that thus far the early returns from his OTA performances have been well received. He spent the off season packing on 15 more pounds of muscle. With his amazing skill set, having a 265-pound freakish athlete running routes in the middle of the field is welcomed addition to the Oakland offense. Of course there is much more to the position than catching balls. Ausberry knows that and said as much when asked about his prospects heading into his second season.
“I was doing a lot of the same things last year, but now it’s pretty much hand in the dirt. There were a lot of formations where I am split out wide, but now it’s more about being a real tight end. It feels pretty good.”
Part of becoming a “real tight end” includes blocking. While Boss wasn’t the weapon in the passing game Miller was he did give Oakland another punishing blocker in the run game. When healthy, Boss was burying defenders in helping to open massive holes for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush last year.
Between Ausberry and Richard Gordon the Raiders have the makings of a great tight end with Ausberry the offensive threat and Gordon the blocker. But this isn’t a position by committee. With the Raiders employing the West Coast Offense they’ll need one man to be the total package. Ausberry could be that guy and he’ll get his chance to prove it.