Rookie Mychal Rivera (No. 81) has been the best receiving tight end for the Raiders in 2013. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Halfway through the 2013 season, it’s apparent the Raiders haven’t come close to replacing Brandon Myers.
Myers, the tight end who led the Raiders in receptions in 2012 with 79 for 806 yards and four touchdowns, was deemed too expensive to keep and left to sign with the New York Giants as a free agent.
Though the Raiders offense was wildly inconsistent in 2012, Myers was the constant: a sure-handed, go-to guy on third down for Carson Palmer who always found a seam in the defense. Forty-one of his catches resulted in first downs last season.
Now, as the Raiders (3-6) prepare to play the Texans (2-7) in Houston Sunday, it’s been painfully obvious that quarterback Terrelle Pryor has not had that luxury. How much more effective would Pryor be this season if Myers – or someone similar – were in the lineup to give him a reliable option on third downs?
David Ausberry appeared to be the leading candidate to replace Myers this season, but he hasn’t played because of a shoulder injury. So, Oakland has made due with a trio of rookies Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa and veteran free-agent pickup Jeron Mastrud.
Together they have a grand total of just 22 catches. Rivera has 18 of them, with Mastrud four and Kasa so far shut out. Together, Rivera and Mastrud have produced just 13 catches that produced first downs. Wideout Denarius Moore, who leads the Raiders with 35 catches for 558 yards and four TDs has produced 29 receptions for first downs.
In his midseason report card on the Raiders recently, ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez gave the tight ends a collective grade of D-minus, writing: “Quick, name the Raiders’ tight ends. Too late. A staple of past Raiders teams, tight ends were always the QB’s security blanket. But pass-catching Mychal Rivera, run-blocking Jeron Mastrud and special teams player Nick Kasa have offered little.”
Prior to Myers, the Raiders had reliable Zach Miller at tight end from 2007-2010. After catching 44 passes as a rookie, he had seasons of 56, 66 and 60 receptions in Oakland before moving on to the Seahawks. In 2011, veteran Kevin Boss – a proven pass-catcher – took over, but was rarely used.
As the Raiders go forward in their rebuilding, they’ll need to address the void at tight end. For Pryor’s development and the effectiveness of the offense, the Raiders can’t do what they did this year and pray for a miracle.
“That’s an area we’d like to see a little bit more production from,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told ESPN recently. “I think those guys are going in there and battling and doing the things they’re capable of doing. But yeah, that’s an area we could use a little bit more production.”