A year ago at this time, David Ausberry was the leading candidate to start at tight end for the Raiders.
The former USC standout, a seventh-round draft choice in 2011, had played an understudy role his first two seasons in the NFL. But with 2012 starter Brandon Myers having left in free agency, the job was open. And Ausberry, a 6-foot-3, 235-pounder who had seven catches in 2012 for 92 yards, was considered the best bet to win the job over another veteran, Richard Gordon, and rookies Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa.
But in just the second preseason game, Ausberry suffered a shoulder injury and missed the entire 2013 season on injured reserve. In his absence, Rivera emerged as a potentially solid receiver, showing good hands and an ability to make plays down the field. The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder from Tennessee played in all 16 games, starting three, and had 38 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns.
After the season, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie singled out Rivera as one of the young players on the roster that he’s expecting big things from in 2014.
But now Ausberry is back, fully recovered and getting a chance in organized team activities (OTAs) this week to show he can be a factor at tight end this coming season.
Paul Gutierrez, who covers the Raiders for ESPN.com, wrote Tuesday after the first day of OTAs that Ausberry “looks like a physical specimen at tight end.”
Ausberry has good speed – better than Rivera – and could blossom into more of a downfield threat than Rivera.
And, after Tuesday’s practice, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen noted that Ausberry could play a big role.
“It’s been good to have David back out here,” Allen told reporters. “He was a guy that we had some high hopes for last year and unfortunately he got hurt in that second preseason game. He’s a guy that, again, he’s got talent and he’s got ability, especially as a receiving threat. He’s a nice piece to the puzzle and hopefully he’ll continue to develop and hopefully he’ll stay healthy.”
When asked if Ausberry is No. 1 on the depth chart at the position, Allen said there is no depth chart right now.
“We really don’t have number ones, number twos, number threes on the depth chart,” he said. “We’re out here practicing football. All that stuff, by the time we hit the first game, will take care of itself.”