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Raiders Look To Fill Void At Tight End

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Tight end David Ausberry is reportedly taking starting reps during Oakland Raider OTAs. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.
Tight end David Ausberry is reportedly taking starting reps during Oakland Raider OTAs. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.

The Oakland Raiders will likely not be able to replace Brandon Myers in the passing game unless another of their tight ends has a breakout season in 2013.

Myers was an unlikely candidate to lead the Raiders in receiving in 2012. The tight end entered the season with 32 receptions and 250 yards in his previous three seasons with Oakland. He quickly became Carson Palmer’s most reliable target, racking up a team-best 79 receptions and 806 yards along with four touchdowns. Myers cashed in on his breakout season by signing with the New York Giants.

With Myers and Palmer both gone, the passing game will have a much different look in Oakland this year. Former Seattle Seahawks backup QB Matt Flynn is likely in place to take the starting job. He’ll have returning receivers in Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, and Jacoby Ford, as well as newly signed Josh Cribbs.  

A tight end has led Oakland in receiving four out of the last five seasons. Can the Raiders sustain a passing threat at tight end without Myers in 2013? Oakland returns two young players at the position, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon, who have limited experience. The two tight ends taken in the 2011 draft will have a chance to break out this season.

Ausberry is currently the tentative starter for the upcoming season. He spent most of his college career at USC as a wide receiver before moving to tight end his senior season. Ausberry has since added more than 20 pounds and has continued to learn the position. He has reportedly worked with the starting unit in OTAs this week, but enters 2013 with only nine career receptions for the Silver and Black.

Gordon, also a third-year player, has primarily been a special teams contributor and a blocking tight end. Don’t expect him to become a key cog in the passing game, as he’s had only 13 receptions in his college and professional careers combined.

With uncertainty at the tight end position, the Raiders turned to the draft rather than free agency to shore up their depth. In the sixth round, Oakland took a pair of tight ends who could make an impact this season.

Their first tight end pick was Nick Kasa out of Colorado. He is not a likely replacement for Myers in the passing game. Kasa spent the majority of his college career on the defensive line before converting to tight end. At 6-foot-6 and 269 pounds, Kasa is primarily a blocking tight end, but showed potential in the passing game by catching 25 passes for 391 yards and three TDs as a senior.

The second tight end the Raiders took in the draft was Mychal Rivera from Tennessee. Rivera may already be Oakland’s best pass-catching tight end. Rivera totaled 76 receptions for 1,018 yards and six touchdowns in three years as a Volunteer. He comes off his best season, hauling in 36 passes for 562 yards and five TDs from quarterback Tyler Bray. The sure-handed rookie could become a factor in Oakland’s offense this season, but it is clear that his blocking is not yet up to par for the Raider rushing attack.