Tight end is another position where the Oakland Raiders have no established starter. Therefore, when training camp begins the last week of July, someone will use the opportunity to solidify himself as the starter.
When the Raiders lost Brandon Myers via free agency to the New York Giants, their receptions leader, first down catch leader, and middle of the field threat vanished. Someone will have to step up and take over for the lost production, but more than likely it will be done by a committee. David Ausberry is a former wide receiver, who has the physical gifts to play the position in the NFL. There were moments last season, despite his lack of playing time, where he displayed that power and speed combination. Many thought 2012 would be the year where Ausberry would take the leap as a weapon in the offense. However, he has yet to develop the blocking and nuances to become the bona fide standout.
Richard Gordon is the perfect complement to Ausberry because his best attribute is his blocking ability. His deficiency is his inability to get separation on his routes in the passing game in order to create big plays. Both Ausberry and Gordon were selected in the late rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. Because they are more seasoned, Gordon and Ausberry will begin training camp with a slight advantage to claim the starting role.
The most experience tight end on the roster is Jeron Mastrud. He came to the Raiders from the Miami Dolphins this offseason. He has started six games in three years with the team, but only has one career reception. He has good size at 6-6, 255 pounds and uses that mass in his solid blocking skills as well as a potential red zone target.
Because tight end is a question mark, the Raiders addressed it in the 2013 NFL Draft, selecting Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera. They will have an opportunity to help this offense immediately because they are not far behind their competition in experience. In college at Colorado, Kasa made the transition from defensive end to tight end. There were more than a few speed bumps from injuries and illness, but he was able to impress as a senior. Coming from the defensive side of the ball, Kasa is more efficient as a blocker than a receiver. Rivera is the opposite. He needs to work on his strength and blocking, but has good catching and offensive abilities.
The Raiders have covered their bases in the tight end department with a good blend of blocking and receiving options. Inexperience will be an issue because none of these players have had significant playing time. The position remains a mystery, especially considering how new offensive coordinator Greg Olson likes to use his tight ends. In his last offensive coordinator stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2008-2011, starter Kellen Winslow caught 77, 66, and 75 passes from 2009-2011. This will be a position to keep an eye on during training camp to see who emerges.
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