Unless he's been mugged by defenders -- as he was in this preseason game -- tight end Brandon Myers seems able to catch any pass thrown his way.
After the Oakland Raiders released Kevin Boss after last season, the tight end position was turned into a giant question mark.
Through the long history of the Raiders, tight ends had been major players in the offense, but since Zach Miller had been allowed to depart after the 2010 season, Boss – a proven receiver in his seasons with the New York Giants – was almost a forgotten piece of the puzzle, a rarely used component.
Then, with his release, the Raiders were left with three young tight ends on the roster in Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon.
With a new offensive coordinator in Greg Knapp installing a system that would likely feature the tight end as a go-to receiver (based on his history in previous systems), it was uncertain who would emerge from the trio to be No. 1.
After three games, it’s clear that Myers has become that guy – and erased all question marks.
Myers has been thrown to by quarterback Carson Palmer 15 times this season and has 15 catches for a team-leading 206 yards. In Sunday’s 34-31 victory over the Steelers, Myers had four catches for 55 yards, including a huge 15-yard reception on third-and-10 from the Raiders’ 25-yard line that kept alive the team’s drive to the winning field goal.
Myers suffered a concussion late in Sunday’s game and was unable to speak to the media, but Palmer said his tight end has become a trusted target.
“He’s just a really good football player,” Palmer told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur. “The guy was tackling him as he was running his route (on that key third-down catch), and that happened a number of times. But Brandon has phenomenal hands.
“He catches everything you throw to him, and he dives and makes plays. That one is about as tough a catch as you have to make, it almost looked like he was getting horse-collared. Then to hold onto the ball when he got lit up. Great player, and we got a lot plays for him in this offense.”
The Raiders also got two other catches from their tight ends Sunday, a 13-yard reception by Ausberry and a 1-yard TD catch by Gordon in the third quarter.
But Myers, says head coach Dennis Allen, “Has been critical for us in the passing game.”
“He’s done an outstanding job,” Allen told the Chronicle. “He was a guy that we identified fairly early in camp as a guy that we thought could be productive for us.”
Myers, in his fourth season out of Iowa, is just one reception short of his career high of 16 set last season in 16 games as a backup to Boss, and already has set a career best for yards with 206 – a 13.7-yards-per-catch average.
In three previous seasons, Myers had 32 total catches.
Last week, Myers said he takes pride in being able to haul any pass within his reach.
“I expect to catch everything,” he told CBSSports.com.
He also said he believes he and Palmer are developing a good relationship and are in sync in games now.
“He’s finding me in holes and doing a good job of putting the ball on me,” Myers told CBSSports.com. “That’s what he does best.”
Myers knew coming into this season that Knapp’s tight-end friendly offense would give him opportunities to make plays and make a big contribution.
So far, so good.
Still on the horizon for Myers is his first touchdown catch. Through three seasons and three games, he’s still without a touchdown.
His next opportunity: This Sunday in Denver against the Broncos.