AFC West: David Ausberry

DENVER -- David Ausberry was the clubhouse favorite to win the Raiders’ starting tight end job coming into training camp. Instead, his season ended before it had a chance to start as Oakland placed the third-year, seventh-round draft pick on injured reserve Monday with his right shoulder injury.

In a corresponding move, the Raiders signed Lamar Mady off the practice squad to the active roster. The 6-feet-2, 315-pound Mady is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Youngstown State

Ausberry, who was also a special teams ace while playing in all 16 games a year ago, was hurt in the Raiders’ second exhibition game this season, at New Orleans. He was inactive the first two regular-season games.

Branch, Watson, Ausberry ruled out

September, 21, 2013
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There were no surprises on the Raiders’ injury report Saturday as strong safety Tyvon Branch (ankle), left tackle Menelik Watson (knee) and tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) were all ruled out of Monday night’s game at Denver.

Left guard Lucas Nix, who injured an ankle in Sunday’s home-opening victory over Jacksonville and did not practice until Friday, was listed as questionable. Nix was replaced in the game by Andre Gurode.

Linebacker Kevin Burnett was no longer on the injury report after leaving Thursday’s practice early due to illness.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Left guard Lucas Nix (ankle) remained an observer at Oakland Raiders practice Thursday, and the other known injured players -- strong safety Tyvon Branch (right leg), left tackle Menelik Watson (right knee) and tight end David Ausberry (right shoulder) -- were not on the field.

Linebacker Kevin Burnett, though, left practice early, taking off his helmet and jersey as he walked off the field. Burnett paused, took a knee and then was joined by a team trainer as he made his way to the locker room.

The official injury report will be made available by the Raiders following practice.

Branch, Janikowski return to practice

September, 12, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Strong safety Tyvon Branch (shoulder) returned to practice with the Raiders on Thursday, as did place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski (right calf) as the Oakland Raiders continued preparations for their home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Branch and Janikowski were limited in practice.

Meanwhile, neither tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) nor rookie offensive tackle Menelik Watson (knee) practiced.

Watson had arthroscopic surgery on a lateral meniscus last week and is expected to be out for at least one month, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen, though, would not confirm the report, citing team policy about not discussing injuries.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Strong safety Tyvon Branch, who injured a shoulder in Sunday’s loss at Indianapolis, was an observer at practice Wednesday as the Oakland Raiders began preparations for their home opener against Jacksonville.

Two other projected starters who did not play against the Colts – rookie left tackle Menelik Watson (knee) and tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) – also did not participate. And kicker Sebastian Janikowski sat out practice to rest his right (non-kicking) calf.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen said he had no update on the condition of Watson, the team’s second-round draft choice, other than that he did not practice. Allen said that holding Janikowski out was a precautionary measure.

Raiders relatively injury-free

September, 9, 2013
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The Raiders emerged from their heart-wrenching 21-17 loss at Indianapolis with no injuries to speak of, coach Dennis Allen announced at his Monday news conference.

The only player he mentioned was strong safety Tyvon Branch, who was shaken up in a downfield collision with free safety Charles Woodson and Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton.

“Nobody got hurt that we’re worried about,” Allen said. “Tyvon’s got a bit of a sore shoulder but really, I don’t anticipate anybody missing anything.”

There was no update, though, on the status of two projected starters who missed the opener due to injury -- left tackle Menelik Watson (knee) and tight end David Ausberry (shoulder).

“I don’t know,” Allen said. “We’ll see if they’re able to practice this week. We’ll see where they’re at.”
As expected, left tackle Menelik Watson (knee) and tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) were both ruled out of the Raiders’ season opener Sunday at Indianapolis.

Watson, the rookie who was making the conversion to the left side, injured a knee in practice on Wednesday and has not practiced since. Ausberry has been sidelined since the end of camp.

Rookie strongside linebacker Sio Moore (foot) was listed as questionable.

With Watson out, Khalif Barnes will slide over from right tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side at left tackle, and Tony Pashos, who was signed on Monday, will start at right tackle. Barnes and Pashos once played together in that alignment in Jacksonville.

But with Watson and Jared Veldheer (left triceps) out, the Raiders have only two healthy tackles in Barnes and Pashos. As such, Oakland has to make a roster move to add another tackle -- perhaps signing Matt McCants off the practice squad -- and make room for said tackle, which would mean probably finally placing Veldheer on partial season injured reserve.

Coach Dennis Allen, though, said the team would not announce any roster moves until Saturday, and he would not elaborate on the severity of Watson’s injury.

Quarterback Matt Flynn (right elbow) and place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski (right calf) were both listed as probable.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Raiders left tackle Menelik Watson's tweaked knee kept him out of practice Thursday, putting the rookie’s availability for Sunday’s season opener at Indianapolis in jeopardy.

Watson
As such, the Raiders have only two healthy offensive tackles on the roster in Khalif Barnes and Tony Pashos, who was signed Monday. And if Watson, who is just learning to protect the quarterback’s blind side, cannot go against the Colts, Barnes will slide from right tackle to the left and Pashos will start on the right side.

It all makes for an interesting development for purported starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who may have to rely on his legs even more than expected against the Colts.

“I don’t know how significant it is, I mean, obviously he injured himself yesterday in practice and wasn’t able to go in practice today,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “We’ll find out more tomorrow as far as whether or not he’ll be able to go in the game. But it is what it is and we’ll know more tomorrow, probably.”

Allen said he would not get into roster specifics the Raiders “might” make if Watson is a no-go, but it’s obvious they would need another tackle.

“We probably would have to look at potentially bringing somebody up off the practice squad,” Allen said. “That’s a situation that we could consider.”

The lone offensive tackle on Oakland’s practice squad is Matt McCants.

The good news on the Raiders’ injury front? A day after sitting out practice, place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski (right calf) was limited but worked on the side during the open media window with new holder/punter Marquette King.

Quarterback Matt Flynn (right elbow) practiced full again, even as Allen remained steadfast in his desire to not publicly name a starting QB.

Tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) and left tackle Jared Veldheer (left triceps) did not practice.

Rookie strongside linebacker Sio Moore (foot) was added to the injury report as he was limited.

Raiders add more O-line depth

September, 2, 2013
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The Oakland Raiders continue to try to improve a weak offensive line.

The team announced it has signed veteran tackle Tony Pashos. The team cut Alex Barron to make room for Pashos. Barron struggled in the preseason.

Pashos, an 11-year veteran, was cut by Washington on Saturday. He didn't play last year. Pashos is being brought in for depth purposes.

The right tackle is currently the only backup tackle on the roster. Pashos does bring experience, starting 67 games in his career. Oakland also added Antoine McClain off waivers from Baltimore on Sunday as it tries to improve a thin unit.

Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Sio Moore is back at practice and should play at Indianapolis on Sunday. However, tight end David Ausberry is still out with a shoulder injury. His status for the opener is murky.
Most significant moves: The Raiders were one of the more intriguing teams in the NFL on cut-down day because they have so many holes and ongoing competitions. There were a lot of significant moves. The Raiders are desperate for pass-rushers, and they cut two who were expected to make contributions. Veteran Andre Carter (expected to be a leader on a young team) and seventh-round pick David Bass were cut. Coach Dennis Allen recently said the team was counting on Bass. Tight end Richard Gordon had a chance to start, particularly because he is a good blocker on a team with a bad offensive line, but he was cut. Jeron Mastrud is the starter for now with David Ausberry coming back from a shoulder injury. The punting battle has yet to be settled. Both veteran Chris Kluwe and youngster Marquette King were kept. Either Oakland will let the two battle it out another week or cut one of them when the team makes roster additions. Perhaps the Raiders are even trying to swing a trade. Since King has made it this far, he might stick around. The team wanted to see improved consistency and he has shown it.

Crowded quarterback room: The Raiders are keeping four quarterbacks. The team kept both fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and undrafted free agent Matt McGloin of Penn State. It would be highly unusual for a team to keep four quarterbacks. Some just keep two. That’s three players who most likely won’t be playing on game day. That is not ideal for a team with major depth issues. McGloin outperformed Wilson and became the No. 3 quarterback. But the decision to keep Wilson comes down to the Raiders not waiting to give up on a quarterback who was a fourth-round pick. I understand. It would be admitting a huge mistake, and perhaps Wilson (many thought he could push to start as a rookie during the offseason) will figure things out. Keeping four quarterbacks adversely affects this roster. The truth is, none of the current quarterbacks in Oakland -- including Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor -- may be the ultimate answer for the franchise. But the Raiders are reluctant to make any decisions now.

What’s next: The Raiders are thin and will likely look for players for the next several weeks. I would not be surprised if this team adds four or five players this week. Prime need areas are tight end, the offensive line and pass-rusher. There are a lot of interesting tight ends available, including Tony Moeaki (talented, but injured), D.J. Williams (who was in Green Bay with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie) and Clay Harbor. Possible offensive line targets include Jake Scott and Danny Watkins.

Players cut: DE Andre Carter, LB Omar Gaither, CB Joselio Hanson, T Tony Hills, S Reggie Smith, DL Ryan Baker, DE David Bass, LB Billy Boyko, CB Chance Casey, G Jason Foster, TE Richard Gordon, WR Greg Jenkins, S Shelton Johnson, TE Brian Leonhardt, G Lamar Mady, K Justin Medlock, DT Kurt Taufa'asau, LB Chase Thomas, WR Conner Vernon, RB Deonte Williams and T Willie Smith. G Tony Bergstrom was put on injured reserve. WR Andre Holmes is serving a four-game NFL suspension.
Random thoughts on non-Terrelle Pryor news from the Oakland Raiders' 22-6 loss at Seattle on Thursday night:

It was another lackluster preseason game for Oakland. Yes, it’s only the preseason. But the Raiders' first units have not been great. Oakland's first team played mostly against Seattle second-teamers and couldn’t keep up. The Raiders did some things better on defense, especially up front. But it was against the second team.

Rookie Menelik Watson had his moments at left tackle, in his first game there ever. I could see him getting the call for Week 1 at Indianapolis.

Just a feeling, but I think Marquette King beats Chris Kluwe for the punting job. The Raiders gave King a lot of chances and even used him at holder. If it’s a tie, go with the young, talented guy. I give King credit for rising to the challenge.

Jeron Mastrud played a lot with the starters and he could be the favorite to be the starting tight end. David Ausberry (shoulder) should be back soon.

Rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson played in the fourth quarter and was not very good. He has been slotted behind undrafted rookie Matt McGloin all preseason. Still, I’d be surprised if Wilson is cut ahead of Saturday's deadline to reduce the roster to 53 players. It will be interesting to see what happens.
ESPN’s Ed Werder said the Packers are fielding calls about some tight ends because of a surplus there. Werder reports young Brandon Bostick is drawing interest.

Oakland is extremely inexperienced at the position and there is no clear-cut favorite to land the job, especially with David Ausberry hurt. Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie came from Green Bay and has a good relationship with the team’s brass. The problem with adding another young tight end in Oakland is, well, they have plenty of young tight ends. They need an experienced veteran at the spot.

In other AFC West notes:

In an Insider piece, KC Joyner doesn’t think taking San Diego tight end Antonio Gates in a fantasy draft would be wise. I’m no fantasy maven, but I buy that theory. Gates is 33 and aging rapidly. I think he will help the Chargers this year, but with Ladarius Green coming on, I think Gates’ playing time could potentially lessen.

In another fantasy look , Oakland running back Darren McFadden and San Diego’s Ryan Mathews don’t get much love, either. Because both players are so injury prone, I can understand.

A critical phase for D.J. Hayden

August, 18, 2013
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Sunday is a vital day for D.J. Hayden.

He is truly a football player again.

The Oakland Raiders’ rookie cornerback has been cleared for contact and he will begin fully practicing with his teammates Sunday. He is expected to make his preseason debut Friday against Chicago. Hayden had been spending most of training camp wearing a red jersey (like quarterbacks), meaning he could not have any contact.

Hayden, the No. 12 overall pick in the April draft, had life-threatening heart surgery last November after taking a hit on the practice field while at the University of Houston. Hayden then had stomach surgery this offseason to repair scar tissue stemming from the original surgery.

But it appears Hayden is now ready to play fully. Hayden is somewhat behind, but the fact that he has been on the practice field in a non-contact role is vital. Oakland coach Dennis Allen told reporters that the next few weeks are crucial for Hayden. He is expected to be a starter at a big need area in Oakland.

“It’ll be good to get him in a game situation and let him get out there and play,” Allen said. “We brought him to New Orleans with us this week, we let him go through the pre-game warm ups, again to try and give him that feeling of being back out there on the field again, and I think he’s anxious and excited about getting an opportunity to play this week.”

Meanwhile, Allen announced tight end David Ausberry will miss the rest of the preseason with a shoulder injury. Ausberry is very much in the mix of young tight ends along with Richard Gordon, and rookies Nick Kasa and Mychel Rivera. At this point, Ausberry is probably the most advanced of the group.
Random thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 28-20 loss at New Orleans on Friday night:

The key for the Raiders this summer is to make progress. Some progress appeared to be made in the preseason opener last week against Dallas. Oakland showed it had some issues, but there were some promising things shown.

There was not a lot of promise shown in the Big Easy.

The Saints toyed with the Raiders. Oakland’s first unit was completely outclassed. The Raiders were manhandled at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball as New Orleans led 17-0 in the first quarter.

While it’s just the preseason, that type of first-unit failure is concerning, especially for a team that has so many question marks. This team has to get it together quickly. But can it?

Oakland was troubled in essentially every phase at New Orleans. Perhaps the biggest issues were a lack of a pass rush and a lack of pass protection. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees shredded Oakland and Raiders starting quarterback Matt Flynn was sacked five times

The offensive line also didn’t open much running room. Tailback Darren McFadden was stuffed as he had 17 yards on five carries. The offense is featuring Alex Barron at left tackle and Andre Gurode at a guard spot. They both didn’t play last year. It is difficult to expect much from these guys if they are going to be starting in the regular season. It is concerning that Tony Bergstrom -- the first pick of the Reggie McKenzie era last year -- can’t get significant playing time on a line in flux.

Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor showed his problems with consistency. He had his moments last week, but he wasn’t very good at New Orleans. Undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin was so-so as he threw a pick. Fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson didn’t even throw a pass. It will be interesting to see if Wilson can dig himself out of a hole.

Both veteran Chris Kluwe and youngster Marquette King punted well. If King continues to punt well and he practices well, he could take the job. Consistency is his key and he has been responding.

The Raiders didn’t come out of the loss overly healthy. Cornerback Tracy Porter (expected to be the No. 3 cornerback) suffered a groin injury and tight end David Ausberry (who is in the starting mix) suffered a shoulder injury. Coach Dennis Allen said both injuries could be significant.

Among the bright spots for Oakland were rookie receiver Brice Butler, defensive lineman Jack Crawford and defensive back Brandian Ross. They all look like they could be contributors.
NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders are basically starting over.

In the second year of the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era, the team has hit the reset button. The Raiders kept several high-dollar players at start of the post-Al Davis era in 2012 and saw their decade-long malaise continue. Oakland, which has not been to the playoffs since 2002, lost eight of its final nine games last season and finished 4-12.

McKenzie flushed several players in an attempt to get control -- finally -- of a salary cap that got away from the previous regime. The result is that Oakland, which will be in fine salary-cap shape next year, has questions throughout the roster heading into this season.

Yet, Oakland isn’t ready to give up on another season, waiting for better fiscal times. Oakland is beginning the rebuilding process with several players handpicked by McKenzie and Allen.

The theme of these newcomers is the same: “They love football,” Allen said.

Almost every time I’ve heard Allen talk in 2013, he has mentioned the will and desire of his team. Allen doesn’t dwell on the past, but it is clear he didn’t believe some of the players on his first Oakland roster would totally sell out for the game.

McKenzie said it was crucial to get high-character players in the building.

“This is the only way we are going to get this thing going,” McKenzie said. “We need to get guys who want it. I think this team, as a whole, wants it. You need talent but you need high-desire players. Sometimes, that is more important than talent. Now, we have talent, but the key is to find guys who have both. We think we have the kind of guys who can be here when we turn this thing around.”

It is doubtful Oakland will be a factor in the AFC West this season, but it’s all about the building process. Having players whom McKenzie and Allen believe in is a start.

“We have to build a swagger,” Allen said. “This team has to have a vision and a belief that this is going to be a good football team.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. The quarterbacks: Like most positions in Oakland, there is flux at the most important position on the field. The Raiders became a mystery at quarterback when Carson Palmer declined a pay cut. With a sudden hole, McKenzie turned to Matt Flynn in a trade with Seattle. Flynn was with McKenzie in Green Bay. He has two NFL starts under his belt, and he is 28. He has been the most consistent of the Oakland quarterbacks this summer, but he is far from dynamic.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Matt Flynn
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsMatt Flynn, who has started two games in a five-year career, has been the most consistent quarterback for the Raiders this summer.
The Raiders hope he can be a solid game manager and a short-term answer. He must show that in camp. The Raiders also have Terrelle Pryor and rookies Matt McGloin and Tyler Wilson. I get the sense that the Raiders have higher, long-term hopes for Wilson, although he has struggled some in camp. If Pryor can find some consistency and Flynn falters, he or McGloin could get a chance. But the same goes for Wilson, a rookie, if there are no better options later in the season. For the immediate future, the Raiders hope Flynn can show he can be an effective starter.

2. Will McFadden have an impact? Running back Darren McFadden has long been Oakland’s best player. The Raiders need him to regain form to ensure this offense can be competitive. If McFadden and the running game don’t take off, there will be immense pressure on Flynn.

McFadden is looking for a bounce-back season. Oakland scrapped the zone-blocking scheme and will employ a power-blocking attack under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson. McFadden has had success in the latter scheme but must remain healthy regardless of scheme. He has missed at least three games in all five of his NFL seasons. If McFadden, who is in his contract year, can play at a high level again, Oakland’s offense will have a fighting chance. This training camp is about getting him prepared to do so.

3. Where’s the pass rush? Defensively, camp is about trying to find a pass rush. Oakland had little pass rush last season, and the team did little to improve in that area in the offseason. The team’s best pass-rushers are veteran Andre Carter and Lamarr Houston. But they are far from elite. Oakland has to find some pass-rushers to emerge in camp, and it also needs improved play in the secondary to help with the pass rush.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM: The back seven on defense appears to be improved. Oakland may have as many as nine new starters on defense and six in the back seven. Oakland feels better about its overall depth at linebacker and in the secondary.

In fact, I get the sense that the team’s brass is most excited about the linebackers and defensive backs.

The exact linebacker rotation is not clear, but the team is really high on middle linebacker Nick Roach and rookie outside linebacker Sio Moore. Roach has been a leader and has shown high intelligence. Oakland thinks Roach will set the tone for an improved defense. Moore, a third-round pick from Connecticut, has the look of a player who can make an instant impact.

Last season, Oakland’s secondary was one of the worst in the NFL. That doesn’t appear to be the case now.

The cornerbacks are much improved with veterans Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter and rookie D.J. Hayden. The addition of safety Charles Woodson gives Oakland hope on the field and in the locker room.

REASON FOR PESSISISM: The roster is not deep, and there are holes and questions all over.

There are some talented players, and some of these young players will emerge. But getting them ready in this camp is daunting.

The key in the NFL is depth. Injuries can occur at an alarming rate. The teams that survive are the teams with the deepest rosters. Oakland doesn’t seem to have a deep roster. McKenzie acknowledges this.

[+] EnlargeOakland's D.J. Hayden
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFirst-round pick D.J. Hayden has the want-to attitude his coaches are looking for.
“I can’t afford to get too many injuries,” McKenzie said. “We have to stay healthy. If we do, I think we can be OK. Guys will emerge as camp goes on.”

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Raiders love Hayden’s attitude. The No. 12 overall pick has the type of want-to attitude the team is looking for.
  • Cornerback Taiwan Jones, who switched positions from running back in the offseason, is a long shot. But because he plays so well on special teams, he has a chance to make the 53-man roster.
  • It is no sure thing that wide receivers Rod Streater and Denarius Moore will be strong starters this year, but both have big potential. Streater, an undrafted fee agent last year, looks particularly comfortable.
  • I love how center Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Jared Veldheer are looking. These are two of the better young offensive lineman in the game.
  • I get the sense Allen is very pleased with this staff. This group seems like it is working well together.
  • The punting job probably will go down to the wire as Oakland looks to replace Shane Lechler, now in Houston. As expected, veteran Chris Kluwe has shown consistency, but Marquette King has a stronger leg. King has a chance if he can find consistency in the next several weeks.
  • Seventh-round pick and pass-rusher David Bass has shown some nice burst. He has a chance to develop.
  • The tight end position continues to be in flux. The team’s four tight ends are David Ausberry, Richard Gordon and sixth-round picks Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera. I’d say Ausberry is the favorite to win the job. Still, it is a work in progress.
  • The team likes what it sees in returner Josh Cribbs. He has a great attitude and is a good influence in the locker room.
  • Journeyman offensive lineman Alex Barron has looked good. Once considered a longshot to make the team, Barron has a chance to play a lot.

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