David Ausberry continued his solid off-season today, lining up with the first team tight ends and coming down with every pass I saw come his way, although they were only short passes in the team session.
Ausberry was even recognized by Allen, specifically, as a player that has impressed him in mini-camp, saying, “David Ausberry is another guy I’ve been impressed with. He’s really improved. He has a better understanding of what we’re trying to ask him to do, and we’re going to continue to put the pressure on him and press him to see who, at the end of the day, stands up and responds and catches the ball and wins the battle.”
With the fairly universal praise Ausberry is getting from the media and with him drawing praise from Allen as well as the fact that he’s now lining up as the first-team TE, it’s a slam dunk that he starts at the position week one, right?
Not so fast.
When Allen was asked about what he expects from the tight end position, he explained what the team was looking for in a tight end, saying, “I think the tight end position is one of those where you’re part offensive lineman and you’re part wide receiver, so their ability to be versatile for us when we need to run the ball and when we need them in pass protection, they have to be able to step up and do their job, and then when we get a chance to throw the ball to them down the field, they have to go make plays for us.”
Ausberry is clearly the best receiver on the TE corps but his blocking has long been suspect. He’s made it a focus to improve but it’s still a question mark. He’s also not the only tight end that’s caught Allen’s eye. He started his press conference mentioning that Mychal Rivera had stood out in the day’s practice by making some plays.
Allen also said, of Rivera, “Mychal Rivera is one guy who’s a rookie that came in and did a really nice job in the passing game, and one of the question marks of him coming in was how he was going to do as a blocker, and he’s done a nice job as far as that’s concerned.”
Indeed, in Rivera’s Tale of the Tape, I mentioned that he was a better blocker than I had thought he would be based upon his size. Rivera isn’t as explosive as Ausberry is with the ball in his hands but he’s perhaps the most rounded tight end on the roster with good hands, sound blocking technique and an understanding of where to find the soft spots in defenses.
Ausberry still has the best chances at being the Raiders starting tight end because he is the most explosive player the team can field at that position. However, Allen’s comments today were a good reminder that the tight end position is more than just a receiving threat and that all of the tight ends on the roster need to work on being as well rounded as they can be.
Photo by Levi Damien