The Oakland Raiders have signed six players in free agency and brought back two of their own players, yet despite those moves, they still have needs all across their roster.
On offense the Raiders need to address their offensive line, take care of depth at running back, add a veteran wide receiver and deal with the departure of starting tight end Brandon Myers. On defense, the Raiders need at least two cornerbacks, at least two free safeties and some more depth along both the defensive line and linebacker units.
The Raiders have limited cap space and only have six draft picks to finish completely rebuilding their defense and make some much needed upgrades to their offense. If that is not enough of an uphill battle, consider also that the Raiders do not have a second round pick as a result of the Carson Palmer trade two years ago.
Needless to say, with that many holes to fill, the Raiders will not be able to address everything this offseason. That means some positions will, by necessity, stay the same or even get worse this season. The question is, what positions should be neglected?
Of the positions that need to be addressed by the Raiders, the one most fit to go unimproved this year is the tight end spot.
The Raiders lost former starter Brandon Myers to the New York Giants after he had a breakout season in 2012. He was the lead receiver on the Raiders in both yards and receptions. But with that being said, there are a few factors that point to his departure not being as big of a deal as it may seem.
First, the Raiders put up a ton of passing yards in garbage time after the other team had stopped playing hard. Myers benefited from that and was able to pick up yards when defenses sat in zones, happy to give up underneath passes when they had a dominant lead.
The Raiders also struggled in pass protection, forcing Palmer to throw to the shorter routes ran by the TE position more frequently. Clearly, Myers was doing his job well since Palmer was able to use him as an outlet, but his numbers would not be so high if the Raiders were able to go downfield more often.
Finally, the Raiders under Greg Knapp were running the West Coast offense which emphasizes the use of the tight end in the passing game. Tight ends in this kind of attack typically have more receptions because it’s an offense that’s built around short, quick passes. Again, this is not a knock on Myers; he still had to make the plays, but the stats are also impacted by other factors such as the scheme.
Also, it should be noted that while Myers had a breakout season with the Raiders in 2012, it was as a pass catcher. What has not been discussed much is that while his pass catching abilities improved, his run blocking skills took a turn for the worse. Once one of his stronger talents, Myers struggled to provide much in terms of blocking in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have two guys on their roster who have been with the team for a few years and who can work together to fulfill the tight end duties for the Raiders. David Ausberry and Richard Gordon can both be considered one-trick ponies, but their tricks complement each other.
Ausberry is a former wide receiver turned tight end who can be a big time factor in the passing game, but struggles to find success as a blocker. Richard Gordon is a big bodied tight end who makes for a great blocker, but cannot offer a ton in the passing game aside from very short check-down passes.
Obviously, this is not the ideal situation as teams will know that Ausberry is primarily a receiving target and consider Gordon a sign that a run play is coming. However, a creative coordinator can limit that problem with two tight end sets and by getting them more playing time, perhaps Ausberry and Gordon can work on the deficiencies in their game and become more complete players.
So while Ausberry and Gordon would not make tight end a position of strength for the Raiders, it would not be a glaring weak point either. Because of this and given the number of problems that the Raiders must address throughout their roster, Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders should really let the tight end position fall by the wayside for the upcoming season and focus instead on the multitude of other, more pressing needs.