Maiocco and Bair: Contrasting expectations for 49ers, Raiders
David Ausberry has just nine career receptions, but is the front-runner for the starting job heading into training camp. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Rookie Nick Kasa will likely compete with fellow sixth-round pick Mychal Rivera for a roster spot. (AP)
Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 24, with the first practice day scheduled for July 26. This afternoon, Scott focuses on the tight ends.
Who they have: Richard Gordon, David Ausberry, Nick Kasa, Mychal Rivera, Jeron Mastrud, Brian Leonhardt
Who they lost: Brandon Myers
Looking back: Myers quelled concerns about how the Raiders would account for the loss of 2011 starter Kevin Boss. Myers had a breakout year, setting career highs with 79 receptions, 806 yards and the first four touchdowns of his professional career. Myers became an outlet and a calming influence on the interior who kept drives alive for then-quarterback Carson Palmer. Despite those efforts and the desire to remain a Raider, the team couldn’t keep him in Silver and Black. He signed a contract with the New York Giants this offseason that the Raiders couldn’t match due to ongoing salary cap issues.
Overall outlook: This position group is remarkably thin, with little experience atop the depth chart. Gordon and Ausberry have 10 career receptions between them, and they’ll be expected to be take over for Myers in the passing game. Ausberry should get the first crack at a starting spot and the first chance to mimic Myers’ 2012 rise to prominence. Their role in the running game might be more crucial given the Raiders’ new power blocking scheme. Ausberry and Gordon both have size and strength, vital to opening holes for a rushing game vital to this season’s offensive success.
Camp competition: Everything is a competition without a veteran or prize draftee on the roster. Training camp and preseason games will decide this depth chart, which Ausberry fronts by a small margin. Sixth-round picks Kasa and Rivera will be given a long look during the preseason. Both had tremendous amateur success and both have the athleticism to excel at the NFL level. The better of the two could make the 53-man roster; the other should land on the practice squad.