Raiders' tight ends welcome Knapp's return as assistant

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 8:07 am

NAPA – Not one for overstating things, tight end Brandon Myers declared he felt "excited, I guess you could say," when the Raiders brought back Greg Knapp to run their offense this season.

The past two years, Knapp helped oversee the Houston Texans' offense, in which tight ends played a prominent role in the passing game.

"In years past, we watched Houston, the way they used their tight ends, stuff like that," Myers said. "Once (Knapp) came here, we kind of knew that was his background. As tight ends, you kind of like that."

The Raiders began the offseason with a platoon at tight end looking likely, as little experience returns among Myers and second-year players David Ausberry and Richard Gordon. A week into training camp, Myers has stood out, coach Dennis Allen said.

"I think he's kind of worked himself into the No. 1 guy," Allen said Monday before hedging. "He's No. 1 right now, but two weeks down the road, we'll see where he's at."

Allen said Myers, in his fourth season with the Raiders, has "done a nice job of trying to be consistent." The 6-foot-3, 256-pound Myers didn't have a flashy moment Monday, but he caught two passes from Carson Palmer for medium gains in scrimmages.

"From a receiving standpoint, that's probably where he's a little bit more advanced as far as knowing what to do and where to be," Allen said. "We have to continue to work with him on the physical part of the game and the run blocking."

Ironically, after the Raiders drafted Myers in the sixth round out of Iowa in 2009, Myers said, he was "deemed the blocking tight end," a complement to the team's Pro Bowl pass-catching tight end, Zach Miller.

"It's funny, because my friends back home are like, 'You know, you've always been able to catch a little better,' " Myers said. "It's been a slow progression. Coming into college, I was 220 (pounds), 215, so it's taken some time. But I've just tried be all-around."

While backing up Miller for two years and Kevin Boss last season, Myers said he tapped the veterans for knowledge and technique but prepared for games as if he would start. He made seven starts last season while Boss was hurt, finishing with 16 catches for 151 yards.

After releasing Boss this spring, the Raiders passed on acquiring another tight end. That left Myers as their most tenured player at the position, suggesting the new coaching staff feels confident going forward with an unproven group.

Allen has maintained the Raiders will use more than one tight end in situations that emphasize their individual strengths. Ausberry, a converted wide receiver, is a comfortable pass catcher and Gordon more of a run blocker.

"Coach Knapp, he does a great job of getting guys in and out and having us all in at the same time even," Ausberry said. "I think we'll be ready for it. I think we have a smart, versatile group."

Miller was the Raiders' top receiver from 2008 to 2010, when he averaged 60 catches a year. Last season, though, Raiders tight ends combined for just 47 catches under coach Hue Jackson, now an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals. As Myers puts it, the tight ends were "phased out" of the offense last year.

Asked why, Myers said, "You'll have to ask someone in Cincinnati."

Hit me – The Raiders had a short live, full-contact session, their first in camp, at the end of practice. They will hold at least one more before their preseason opener next Monday against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a short-yardage drill, and it played out decisively in the offense's favor.

"Yeah, they got the better of the short yardage, no question about it," Allen said. "I thought they did a great job of mixing things up and keeping the defense off-balance."

Running back Darren McFadden did not participate in the 12-play live session.

Injuries – Linebacker Aaron Curry (knee), running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring), punter Shane Lechler (knee), wide receivers Eddie McGee (hamstring) and Denarius Moore (hamstring) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee) did not practice. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (ankle) left practice early.

Lechler, who has not practiced in camp, is rehabilitating at the facility but is likely a week away from getting on the field, Allen said. That has kept backup punter Marquette King busy, but Allen said he is not worried about the 23-year-old King's workload.

"He's a young dude, man," Allen said. "He'll be all right."

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