Once, the tight end was a featured part of every Oakland Raiders offense.
From Billy Cannon to Raymond Chester, Dave Casper, Todd Christensen and Zach Miller, tight ends in silver and black made key third-down catches and moved the chains.
Last season, however, starting tight end Kevin Boss was mostly overlooked in his first (and only) season in Oakland, catching just 28 balls for only three touchdowns.
This season, however, Brandon Myers figures it will be a whole different story.
The 6-foot-3, 256-pound Myers, who backed up Boss last season, is penciled in as the starter at the position for 2012 and has developed a good rapport with quarterback Carson Palmer. The fourth-year pro from Iowa – who has 32 catches in three NFL seasons – has “worked himself into the No. 1 guy,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told the Sacramento Bee.
For Myers, the hiring of Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is giving him a fresh start. Myers saw what Houston did with its tight ends the past couple of years with Knapp on the Texans staff, and knows the Raiders will use their tight ends much more than they did last season in head coach Hue Jackson’s offense.
The past two seasons, when Knapp was quarterbacks coach in Houston, the Texans threw to their tight ends 124 times in both 2010 and 2011, reports Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. Last year, Oakland QBs aimed passes for tight ends just 61 times.
Myers says he’s “excited” by the prospects.
“In years past, we watched Houston, the way they used their tight ends, stuff like that,” Myers told Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee. “Once (Knapp) came here, we kind of knew that was his background. As tight ends, you kind of like that.”
Though second-year tight ends David Ausberry and Richard Gordon remain in the mix at the position, Myers has stepped up in training camp to be the front-runner for the starting job. Allen says Myers’ receiving skills are more polished.
“From a receiving standpoint, that’s probably where he’s a little bit more advanced as far as knowing what to do and where to be,” Allen told the Bee. “We have to continue to work with him on the physical part of the game and the run blocking.”
Myers suffered a shoulder injury recently that kept him out of practices and the first two exhibition games. But he returned to practice this week and Allen, when asked if Myers will play Saturday against the Lions, told the Bee, “I hope so.” Allen says Myers’ shoulder is “a little sore, but I think he’s going to be just fine,” especially with several weeks to go until the regular-season opener against the Chargers on Sept. 10.
Prior to his injury, Myers was a featured target of Palmer’s in practices, reports McDonald.
It’s likely that as the season unfolds, the Raiders’ offense will use all three tight ends in a variety of situations. Ausberry (a former wide receiver) and Myers are considered the better receivers of the group, while Gordon is believed to be a better run blocker. Oakland is likely to run two-tight-end sets often.
“Coach Knapp, he does a great job of getting guys in and out and having us all in at the same time even,” Ausberry told the Bee. “I think we’ll be ready for it. I think we have a smart, versatile group.”