Can Oakland Raiders Tight End David Ausberry be the Next Marcel Reece?
Ausberry was sparingly used at USC and was not even invited to the NFL combine, but he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the USC pro-day, which made him the fastest tight end in the draft class. During training camp, former Raiders starting quarterback Jason Campbell was raving about the 6-foot-4, 243-pound Ausberry because of his blazing speed and athleticism.
Unfortunately over the next two years, Ausberry barely touched the field because he had not picked up the nuances of the tight end position. With the departure of Brandon Myers in free agency, it’s time for Ausberry to finally show if he can be a contributor in the NFL.
Like Ausberry, Teyo Johnson was a converted wide receiver who was drafted by Al Davis to play tight end for the Raiders. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Johnson came into the league with much fanfare because of his standout play as a two-sport star at Stanford.
Unfortunately, Johnson never produced and was out of the NFL after three unsuccessful seasons. The Johnson path is a very realistic scenario for Ausberry because he has not shown that he can be an every-down tight end or that he has learned how to be an effective run blocker.
Over the last two years, Ausberry has been a backup to the former Raiders sixth round pick Brandon Myers. For the first three years of Myers’ career, he was a second tight end who rarely touched the field, and it was not until the Raiders cut Kevin Boss that he was able to take the field.
During Myers’ first and only season as the Raiders’ starting tight end, he put up remarkable numbers in the passing game by having 79 receptions for over 800 yards. Although Myers put up big numbers in the passing, he was ranked as the worst run blocking tight end in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Once last season was over, Reggie McKenzie did not even make Myers an offer because of his inflated stats and lack of run blocking technique, which has opened the door for Ausberry. I can see Ausberry putting up big numbers in the passing game because of his speed, but I can also see his run-blocking technique becoming a problem for him to see the field, especially with the Raiders reverting back to a power run scheme.
Reece was a former Washington Husky wide receiver who went undrafted in 2008 because NFL scouts did not know what position he could play. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins, but was soon cut and signed a few days later as a practice squad player for the Raiders.
The Raiders coaching staff decided to try Reece out as a fullback, and he spent the next two years on the practice squad trying to perfect his technique. Last year after his fifth NFL season, Reece was the starting fullback for the AFC pro bowl squad.
The Reece path would be the best case scenario for the Raiders and Ausberry. Although Ausberry has not shown anything on the field yet, he has all the natural ability that Reece has and it’s up to him to work hard in the offseason to solidify the starting tight end spot this season.
Ausberry is projected as the starting tight end for the Raiders this season, but no one really knows what type of player he really is. The Raiders drafted two tight ends late in the draft this year so even though Ausberry is the projected starting tight end, it means nothing when training camp starts, especially with the coaching staff’s philosophy that every position is up for grabs.
Ausberry can become a favorite target of Matt Flynn on Sundays this year, but he can also end up playing for some team in the CFL. In the end, it is up to him to show who he really is.
Jorge Contreras is an Oakland Raiders writer for RantSports.com. Follow Jorge on Twitter @jraycontreras
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