Heading into training camp, Just Blog Baby’s editors Chase Ruttig and Shane Schilperoort are breaking down each position of the Oakland Raiders roster to get you familiar with the new and returning faces on the 2013 Raiders. Today we take a look at the Tight Ends.
Not being able to re-sign Brandon Myers, the job for starting tight end on the Raiders is wide open and full of question marks heading into training camp. With a long list of late round draft picks who are either rookies or unproven newcomers to the NFL. With no name on the depth chart that catches the eye, there is not going to be a starting tight end in Week One that is going to earn the job on reputation alone making the tight end position battle one of the more intriguing positional storylines heading into 2013 Camp.
Here is the 2012 vs. 2013 Tight End roster list:
2012: Brandon Myers, David Ausberry, Richard Gordon,Mickey Shuler
2013: David Ausberry, Richard Gordon, Nick Kasa, Mychal Rivera, Jeron Mastrud, Brian Leonhardt
Obviously the biggest move that was made at tight end for the Raiders was the failure in re-signing 2012 feature tight end Brandon Myers. Myers was the team’s leading receiver last season but Reggie McKenzie didn’t make a huge effort on selling him to stay in Oakland and Myers jumped ship to a contender in the New York Giants. In losing Myers the Raiders will lose a player who caught 79 passes for 806 yards in 2012, a player that would have been huge to have around as a target assuming the weaker armed Matt Flynn will be behind center this season.
Myers went from being regarded as a blocking tight end before heading to Oakland to being a receiver first and a blocker second last season, the primary factor in his success. In a return to the power blocking scheme, whoever the Raiders featured tight ends are, they will likely be expected to chip in more than their share in the run blocking game as Darren McFadden will be shouldering the load much more often in 2013.
Even though Myers wasn’t considered an elite tight end on the level of Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez, second-year tight ends David Ausberry and Richard Gordon did little to impress in 2012, but will still be regarded as favorites to earn the main roles at tight end in 2013 based on experience. Making it very likely that the Raiders will be relying on two tight ends that have compiled just twelve catches and one touchdown in their NFL careers so far. Twelve catches. One touchdown. That is just awful.
Still with two returning tight ends who were picked in the sixth and seventh round just two years ago and two rookie 6th/7th round picks, the Raiders are going to have a tight position battle, it just is going to be a position battle between a group of four not very good football players.
Here are the four players at Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen’s disposal:
David Ausberry is considered the favorite for the Raiders starting tight end position, a shock considering that just two years ago at USC he was playing wide receiver. Ausberry caught 20 catches for the Trojans in his senior year, compiling a respectable 252 yards and four touchdowns in 2010 leading to him getting selected in the seventh round by the Raiders.
Ausberry’s career exploded in his freshman year at USC when he caught 26 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, yet despite his solid first year stats he struggled to earn a bigger role in Southern California and tailed downwards in the depth chart until finishing his collegiate career off strong.
Ausberry is raw to the position, but did look good in spots for the Raiders last year, even throwing a highlight reel stiff arm against the Dolphins that showed the dynamic talent you can see in his USC highlight tape from his senior year. If Ausberry can continue to develop and grow through training camp and impress in the preseason, he should be on track to be the Raiders main guy. The hope is that he can manage to have enough of a breakout season to make up for the loss of Myers.
Joining Ausberry as a returning player at camp this year will be Richard Gordon. Gordon was drafted in the sixth round in the 2011 draft out of the University of Miami but is primarily a run block specialist, recording just 10 receptions in his college career.
With two years of NFL experience and being one of the Raiders strongest blocking threats at their disposal at tight end, Gordon has a chance to see a quality amount of snaps in 2013. Still, don’t expect to see much of him as he presents very little options for Greg Olsen as a receiver despite being the only Raiders receiver with an NFL touchdown. If rookies Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa can show they can run routes better than Gordon while being able to provide protection in the blocking scheme, Gordon will likely be the odd man out, but for now based on experience alone he is the second favorite for the position heading into camp.
A highly touted defensive line prospect heading out of high school, Nick Kasa made the switch from defensive end to tight end late in his junior season and quickly became one of the best pass catching tight ends in the Pac 12 as well as a legitimate pass and run blocking prospect in just a year and a half at the position.
Last season, his only full year at tight end after switching halfway through his junior year, Kasa caught 25 passes for 391 yards (better than David Ausberry’s senior numbers at USC) as well as hauling in a highlight reel 70 yard catch and run touchdown in CU’s come from behind win against Washington State.
Kasa was good enough in his first season at tight end to rank third on the team in yards and fourth in catches as well as being named to the All-Pac 12 team as an honorable mention and taking part in the 2013 Senior Bowl.
A former defensive lineman, Kasa is 269 pounds and runs a 4.71 40 with a frame and skillset that draws comparisons to Jason Witten and could be a very good NFL tight ends one day. Still, he did play for a losing team in Colorado and is a new tight end, but at this point is he likely equally as useful as Richard Gordon or David Ausberry? Absolutely.
Kasa will still need to continue to learn the game and the jump from being the tight end on a 1-11 Pac 12 team to playing in the NFL will be steep for Kasa who is very raw at the position. Still his talent is obvious and he was one of the rare bright spots on a very bad CU team and will be one of the Raiders most intriguing rookies heading into 2013. If he can continue to improve his tight end talents, Reggie McKenzie may have landed himself a steal as Kasa
A former Oregon Ducks signing before transferring to the Volunteers after being asked to move to the offensive line by Chip Kelly, Mychal Rivera broke Jason Witten’s single season receiving yards record at tight end in Tennessee by catching 36 passes for 562 yards. Rivera also caught five touchdowns as the Volunteers struggled and finished 5-7 in the SEC East.
Still 562 yards and 36 catches while playing in the best conference in college football is a solid resume for any draft pick, and the Raiders were lucky to see him fall into the late rounds. Like Kasa, Rivera has a question mark in having to transfer from Oregon to Tennessee, but it appears that the 6′ 3″ 245 is a late bloomer. One of just two Volunteers to register over 1,000 receiving yards as a tight end and doing it in just two seasons, Rivera like Kasa, has the potential to earn one of the #1 or #2 positions on the tight end depth chart if he can make enough plays during the preseason.
So there you have it, a list of four unproven late round draft picks looking to get their big break as an NFL starter. The Raiders loss in losing Brandon Myers is David Ausberry, Richard Gordon, Nick Kasa, and Mychal Rivera gain as four late round picks now have the chance to make a name for themselves.
I think the Raiders tight end situation is going to be better than expected due to the additions of promising rookie projects in Kasa and Rivera that I think will produce at least one breakout rookie out of the two. There are a lot of question marks and the situation at tight end looks bleak, but the hope is at least one out of a group of four lightly regarded NFL players steps up and takes charge with a breakout season.