With the addition of Jared Cook, will the Oakland Raiders offense see an increase in production from the tight end position this season?
It’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders offense is loaded with talent and should be among the best in the NFL once again. The offense is stacked with a top offensive line, a deadly one-two punch at wide receiver, the return of Marshawn Lynch, and they have the NFL’s best young quarterback running the show. However, one area of weakness is at the tight end position. You have to look back to the days of Zach Miller to find the last time the Raiders had a real threat at the position.
The tight end position for the Raiders has become a black hole as far as production is concerned in recent years. Will the addition of Jared Cook help bring more of an explosive threat to the position? Or will Clive Walford finally realize his potential and become a big time target for Derek Carr? Also keep an eye on undrafted rookie Pharaoh Brown as a dark horse to make the 53-man roster.
The current list of tight ends on the roster includes Jared Cook, Clive Walford, Lee Smith, Gabe Holmes, Pharaoh Brown, Ryan O’Malley, and Cooper Helfet. Ideally, the Raiders will carry three to four of those men on the active 53-man roster. Smith, Cook, and Walford are locks to make the team. The fourth spot, should the Raiders carry one, is up for grabs.
Clive Walford led the group in 2016 with 33 receptions for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a unit, Walford, Smith, and now Jacksonville Jaguar Mychal Rivera accumulated 57 receptions for 580 yards and 3 touchdowns. Consider the firepower at other positions, the Raiders offense could make life extremely difficult for opposing defenses should they see an increase in production from the tight end group.
Speaking of Walford, the Raiders were clearly not sold on him being the tight end of the future with the Cook signing. After using a third round draft pick on Walford in 2015, to this point he has not lived up to expectations. In his first two seasons he has 61 catches for 688 yards and 6 touchdowns. Last summer, Walford injured himself in an ATV accident and never returned back to 100 percent health. He has shown flashes of having the ability to make big plays and spectacular catches here and there but has largely been inconsistent.
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Lee Smith will return after spending the majority of last season on injured reserve. Smith is a one trick pony and his responsibilities are limited to blocking. He is very good at what he does, but Smith provides nothing in the passing game.
The Raiders addressed the need for a playmaker at the position during free agency by signing former Green Bay Packer Jared Cook. He should provide a big body in the middle of the field and in the red zone for Derek Carr. In addition, Cook has the speed necessary to get down the seams and stretch the field vertically.
Cook should not be viewed by fans as a game changer, but is definitely an upgrade over Clive Walford as the primary receiving tight end. While playing in only 10 games last season with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, Cook managed to catch 30 balls for 377 yards and 1 touchdown.
The added dimension of a receiving threat via the addition of Cook could be exactly what this offense needs to take the next step to be a Super Bowl caliber team.