Raiders look to better use tight end

The sight of Raiders tight ends hauling in passes during Wednesday’s mini-camp was one not often witnessed last season, when they brought in a big target in Kevin Boss and then rarely threw his way.
Another tight end, Zach Miller, had led the Raiders in receiving in 2010. And after Miller left in free agency, it appeared Boss would be expected to take up that mantle. Boss finished last season with his fewest catches (28) since his rookie year.
Already this spring, though, it’s looking to tight end Brandon Myers like the position will have a bigger role in the Raiders’ new offense this season.
“Last year the tight ends were kind of non-existent, to be honest with you,” said Myers, who in his fourth season is the Raiders’ longest tenured tight end.
“This year we’ve got multiple guys in there rotating in and out, and there is opportunity for the tight ends to catch some balls. It’s just up to us to make the plays and get the coaches and the quarterbacks to trust us.”
The Raiders released Boss in March, one year into a four-year deal, and appear to be content taking their chances with a relatively young and green tight end group that doesn’t feature a big name.
Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon combined for 19 catches from last year, and 16 of those belong to Myers. Undrafted rookie Kyle Efaw out of Boise State, and the recently signed Tory Humphrey, who has 13 career catches, are also at the mini-camp.
For a group lacking experience, coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday, they have been a pleasant surprise.
“The one thing I’d say about the tight ends is, what was perceived to be an area of weakness coming in, I’ve seen some significant improvement,” Allen said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in training camp.”
Myers, who appeared in all 16 games last season for the Raiders and has 32 catches for 250 yards in his first three seasons, has been working with the first-team offense. Allen, though, made it clear the competition for the starting spot is still “wide-open,” and Myers said there may be room for multiple contributors.
“We all bring different things to the table,” Myers said. “It’s up to the coaches to mix and match and put guys in position to make plays and get the mismatches.”
Ausberry and Gordon were both rookies last season and played sparingly. A converted receiver, Ausberry said 2011 was a transition year for him, getting used to lining up with “hand in dirt.” He said he has bulked up to 265 pounds from 250 last year without sacrificing speed.
Gordon’s blocking was considered his strength coming out of college at Miami. But he made a couple of nice catches down the field Wednesday and said he has made a point of working on his hands, catching balls from a JUGS machine or reserve quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
“For as big as he is, he’s real athletic,” Allen said. “He’s a work in progress, but I think he’s done a nice job so far.”
New Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp spent the past two seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Houston Texans, where the tight end featured prominently on offense. Tight ends led the Texans’ offense last season in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
“There’s a lot of two tight end sets so we’re in the majority of the (practice) station or whatever we’re in at any time,” Ausberry said. “We’ve all got a chance to make an impact on the team, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Leave your comments