Oakland Raiders: How do the Raiders Tight Ends Match-up Versus the AFC West Safeties?
Jerry Rump – Jul 3, 2012
Everyone in Raider Nation is well aware that the position of tight end for the Oakland Raiders is in a bit of a transitional period. Last year, Zach Miller left in the free agent market for Seattle and virtually disappeared from the radar.
Still, the hole his absence left turned out to be a bigger problem for the Raiders than the departure of the big ticket free agent cornerback, Nhamdi Asomaugha, as production at the tight end position was non-existent to put it nicely.
After last year’s worthless acquisition, Kevin Boss, did not impress the new coaching staff, he was given his walking papers and promptly went where so many other used up players go to die, Kansas City.
After all, it was not like Boss was cut after putting in a pro-bowl caliber performance last year. He had like what, four catches all season long? Good luck with all that Kansas City.
The current tight ends that the Raiders have on the roster are Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon, David Ausberry, Kyle Efaw, and Tory Humphrey. Efaw and Humphrey both look to be relegated to practice squad players. The other three will most likely split time this year in a revolving search for someone to break out and produce at this critical position.
In today’s NFL, one need look no further than to those hated New England Patriots to prove how vital it is to get production out of the tight end position.
Last season, Tom Brady almost won it all with nothing more than Wes Welker as his only reliable wide receiver. This is because of how much Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez dominated opposing defenses.
It was sickening how they week in and week out burned opponents by exposing how most defenses in the NFL cannot stop a good tight end. Thank you to New York for stopping their run, although the injury to Gronk’s ankle was probably the single biggest reason you won the Super Bowl. I’m just sayin.
This is why it is so imperative that a playmaker step up and perform this year for Oakland. Production from the tight end position puts tremendous stress upon opposing defenses and opens up not only the passing game, but the running game as well.
To emphasize this point further and continue our ongoing Raider Nation Times “Know Your Enemy” series, this article will look to breakdown how the Raiders’ tight ends will matchup against the AFC West division’s opposing safeties.
As stated earlier, it looks like going into training camp that the Raiders have no clear cut favorite at this position.
This means that, unless a player really amazes head coach, Dennis Allen, and offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, the tight end spot will be more of a shared-time position between Myers, Gordon, and Ausberry.
First up, is the team that the Raiders will face opening the season on Monday Night Football in primetime on September 10th, the San Diego Chargers.
San Diego is the best divisional opponent to open the season against. This is because the Raiders not only will look for a bit of payback after the end of the season’s debacle last January that saw the Chargers deny the Raiders from claiming their first division crown since 2002, but they have a very big weakness at the safety position.
Of the three divisional foes, the Chargers are probably the best team in the division on which to unleash the new scheme the Raiders are employing this year against as they were even worse than the Raiders when it came to defending the pass.
Considering the way the Raiders’ secondary played last year makes this hard to believe huh?
It’s true though, Google it if you have any doubts. Don’t you just love how that statement settles arguments nowadays?!
The safeties for the Chargers will be led by the only returning starter from last season, Eric Weddle, who is a pro-bowl player, but that’s where the good news ends for Bolt’s fans.
Atari Bigby and Darrell Stuckey round out the other players with any experience as San Diego also added Brandon Taylor in the third round of the NFL 2012 draft, but he is not expected to see much playing time in his rookie season.
Bigby is new to the team, coming over from Seattle, while Stuckey was primarily used as a special teams player from last season with San Diego.
This is not good news for a squad that finished 31st against the pass and was the worst team in the league when it came to defending the tight end position.
So, that is why I say, who better to open up against and get some much needed experience for the Raiders’ tight ends, than the team that had the worst safeties in the league when it came to defending this position?
Look for this matchup to be a good one to watch as the Raiders will seek to go 1-0 to start the New Era.
The Denver Broncos safeties are up next as they do not have much more than the Chargers to be excited about when it comes to this position.
Mike Adams is the most-experienced safety the Broncos possess after the retirement of one of the best to ever play the position, Brian Dawkins. Adams is a nine year veteran out of Delaware and that’s about all there is to say about him.
This leaves Denver relying more upon second year players, Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter for any production at this position. Such youth at the safety position does not inspire a lot of trepidation for the Raiders as this is one of, if not the, toughest position to learn in the league and should be the area to exploit on this defense.
Many would wonder why Broncos’ GM, John Elway, would leave the team so vulnerable, but to any long-time fan of the Silver and Black, this is not surprising at all.
Once an ego-bloated quarterback……
Look for the Raiders’ tight ends to be crucial in opening up both the run and pass in these matchups against the Broncos. Production from them will loosen up that dominate front seven of the Denver defense and lead to a lot of boo-hooing in the Mile-High city.
Big plays from the tight ends will expose the lack of experience and/or talent in the Broncos’ safeties and should lead to the Raiders dominating both the divisional games this upcoming season.
That is a big reason for there to be a sweep by the Raiders this season to officially welcome Peyton Manning to the AFC West.
Finally, we turn to the toughest matchup for the Raiders’ tight ends in the division and that will come from the safeties of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eric Berry is one of the best in the league at the safety position, but it will be interesting to see how he returns after a season-ending ACL tear removed him from action last year. That said, he will anchor the defense for the Chiefs and indeed provides a formidable matchup against the Raiders’ inexperienced tight ends.
Kendrick Lewis also went down with an shoulder injury last year that required surgery, but the third-year defensive back out of Ole Miss will be back to provide support to Berry.
Add to that the recent additions of rookie Tyson Hartman from Kansas State University and free-agent acquisition, Abram Elam from the Dallas Cowboys and the Chiefs have addressed the need for backups if Berry or Lewis should struggle returning from the aforementioned injuries.
These games against the Chiefs will be the divisional matches that the Raiders’ tight ends will need to really pull together and come through big-time for the team.
It is vital that the tight ends produce well in these games to take the pressure off the rest of the offense.
From big blocks which will allow the running game to flourish, to a few big catches which will draw the attention of the Chiefs’ safeties, which in turn, leads to more one-on-one coverage for the Raiders’ wide receivers, the tight ends must produce in order for Oakland to come out on top against the Chiefs.
When it comes down to it, it appears like the biggest challenge to the Raiders winning their division this season will come out of Kansa City and not Denver or San Diego, like so many of these analysts would like you to believe. Can’t you hear Chris Berman already saying: “ But, that’s why they play the games.”
Getting the tight end position back up and producing is the huge dilemma facing Oakland this year on the offensive side of the ball. The rest of the offenses’ key positions will only improve that much more if the tight ends can get on track.
Raider Nation should pay extra attention to this position battle in the up-coming training camp and pre-season as a lot hinges off the approach the team chooses to take in addressing the need for a valid tight end threat.
As all of us have done since the end of last season, we must keep our faith in the way GM, Reggie McKenzie, is running things. This also means we must have trust that the tight ends we possess right now can get the job done.
All I can say is it has to be better than last year at this position...doesn't it?
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