The tight end position may be where the Oakland Raiders have the most uncertainty and intrigue. There is no clear cut starter and the competition in training camp and the preseason will produce a starter. The Raiders have a solid amount of potential at this position but lack some experience. This will be a competition to keep an eye on during training camp.
The Raiders have two players who are vying for the starting tight end job. David Ausberry and Mychal Rivera are both promising talents, who are still learning and growing as players. The word from the coaching staff out of OTAs and mini-camp is that they like the prospects of Rivera and Ausberry, but are not totally sold on either.
“It’s kind of like when you go and sit on Santa Claus’ lap,” head coach Dennis Allen said this offseason. “You ask for a bunch of stuff, and you get about half of it. That’s kind of where we’re at. I feel good about having some young guys at the tight end position and we’re going to need those guys to step up. Somebody in that room has to step up and say that they’re the guy. I think we’ll all know when that time comes.”
Part of this is Allen motivating both guys to step up and take the starting job. Ausberry is a player who has shown glimpses of highlight plays. His stiff arm against the Miami Dolphins in week two of 2012 showed the astronomical things he is capable of. On the opposite side, Ausberry lost an entire year of development with a nasty shoulder injury. He is healthy now and needs a strong training camp to learn as well as get better. From a physical standout, he is everything a team would want in a tight end. He possesses size, speed, and strength, but needs to gain experience.
Rivera really stepped up for the Raiders last season and started to develop into a solid weapon. He emerged into a reliable target and a strong pass catching option. He still needs to work on blocking, but as a receiver, he is coming along very well. He and Ausberry give the Raiders two inexperienced but incredibly exciting options at tight end.
The rest of the tight end position will come down to former sixth-round pick Nick Kasa and undrafted free agent Brian Leonhardt. Neither has seen much action but both have some potential. They will be competing for the third tight end spot and a roster spot in training camp. This is the position to watch in preseason to see who emerges.
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