Oakland Raiders: Nick Kasa

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There were high hopes for David Ausberry last preseason as he elevated himself into position to claim the starting tight end position for the Oakland Raiders.

Then came the exhibition game at New Orleans, and the play in which he landed awkwardly on his left shoulder on the unforgiving Superdome artificial turf.

“A chipped bone,” Ausberry said this week, “torn ligaments. It was pretty nasty.”

Surgery followed and Ausberry’s season came to an end before it began as he was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 23, 2013.

“I didn’t get to do anything but watch film, so that’s kind of how I gained experience a little bit,” he said. “I was a little rusty; I can admit that. It was good to get back in there and in with the guys. That was probably the most fun thing.”

So far, Ausberry has not been limited in OTA practices.

“It’s been good to have David back out here,” coach Dennis Allen said as OTAs got underway last week.

“He was a guy that we had high hopes for last year and unfortunately got hurt in that first preseason game. He’s a guy that, again, he’s got talent, he’s got ability, especially as a receiving threat so he’s a nice piece to the puzzle and hopefully he’ll continue to develop and hopefully he’ll stay healthy and we’ll be able to use him this year.”

Ausberry was originally a seventh-round draft pick in 2011 out of USC, where he was a wide receiver. The transformation to tight end ensued and Ausberry, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, said he is now “258, 260 pounds” and it shows.

He already has a pass-catcher’s soft hands -- he has nine career catches for 106 yards -- and the added bulk should help him with his blocking as he battles a pair of second-year players in Mychal Rivera, who caught 38 passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns last season, and Nick Kasa, who is 3 inches taller than both Ausberry and Rivera and caught one pass, a 9-yard TD.

The tight end position seems up for grabs and Ausberry’s skill set would seem to put him in the lead. Not that he is keeping score. At least, not publicly.

“I try not to worry about things like that too much,” he said. “I just try to be confident, do my job, do what I’m asked to do and do it effectively.”

But with a new quarterback with a penchant for throwing the ball to his tight end in Matt Schaub, Ausberry has taken notice of that development.

“He is tight end friendly,” Ausberry said with a smile, “so that’s pretty good for us. We like Matt. He’s a good leader, great football player and is good for this team.

“He likes the tight ends. He likes to use the middle of the field, so we’ll be there for him.”

The Raiders are hoping so, especially, as Allen said, for Ausberry to stay healthy.
How acquired: Second-round draft pick (No. 42 overall) out of Florida State

Watson
2013 season: First Menelik Watson was going to play right tackle. Then he was moving to left tackle. Finally, he settled back on the right side. But not before a calf issue slowed his development in training camp. Then a minor knee surgery. Then, tha calf flared up again. And did we mention already that Watson was considered a project by many in that he had only really played a couple years of organized football? Yes, Watson was raw as a rookie and the Oakland Raiders reached. Recovering from the knee procedure, Watson was inactive the first seven games and made his debut in Week 9. There were flashes, which were limited due to his missing so much time with the injuries. Watson appeared in five games and started two, at right tackle against the New York Giants, and as an extra lineman at Houston. He missed the final two games, though.

Looking ahead: Big things are expected out of Watson by the Raiders in 2014 and, no doubt, on March 11, they hope he grabs the starting right tackle position and does not let go any time soon. Of course, that means Watson staying out of the trainer’s room, staying on the field and getting as much offseason work in as possible. “Menelik has to get his body right,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said after the season. “If we can keep him healthy, I’m looking forward to what he can do next season.”

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin,WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa and LB Sio Moore.

Rookie glance: LB Sio Moore

March, 5, 2014
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How acquired: Third-round draft pick (No. 66 overall) out of Connecticut

2013 season: An excited Moore told reporters on a conference call immediately after he was selected by Oakland that the Raiders got the best linebacker in the draft. And while Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso was named defensive rookie of the year by the Pro Football Writers’ Association, Moore was one of three LBs named to the PFWA all-rookie team, along with Alonso and St. Louis’ Alex Ogletree. No doubt Moore was the most productive rookie in last year’s draft class. The 6-feet-1, 240-pound strongside linebacker played in 15 games, starting 11, and led Oakland rookies with 55 tackles, 4 sacks, which was fourth among all NFL rookies, and a forced fumble. The only game he missed – Week 3 at Denver – was the result of a concussion suffered in a car accident.

Looking ahead: You could say Moore more than impressed and solidified his standing as a building block for the franchise going forward. You could also make the case that Moore is the best draft pick in two drafts by general manager Reggie McKenzie thus far. Moore’s high motor served him well last season and should continueto do so in the future, so long as he does not get overly aggressive in chasing plays or picking up penalties. It will be interesting to see how his skill set translates if the Raiders show more 3-4 looks on defense, outside of their base 4-3 alignment.

 

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray and TE Nick Kasa.

Rookie glance: TE Nick Kasa

March, 4, 2014
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How acquired: Sixth-round draft pick (No. 172 overall) out of Colorado

2013 season: The first of three sixth-round draft picks for the Raiders, and one of two tight ends drafted, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Kasa played in all 16 games, starting at the New York Giants on Nov. 10. He began his college career as a defensive end so he has no issue mixing it up as a blocking tight end. He caught one pass as a rookie, but he made it count -- a 9-yard touchdown reception in the season finale from Terrelle Pryor against the Denver Broncos.

Looking ahead: With Jeron Mastrud about to hit free agency and Mychal Rivera having established himself as a fine pass-catching tight end, Kasa may still face an uphill battle with recuperating David Ausberry, who missed the season with a shoulder injury, returning. Still, Kasa did make contributions on special teams, and the Raiders did carry three tight ends on the roster last season. He needs to show more pass-catching skills, though.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray.
How acquired: Sixth-round draft pick (No. 181 overall) out of Central Florida

2013 season: Murray appeared in one preseason game, the exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys, and finished with 29 yards on eight carries. It was his only action as the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder was placed on Injured Reserve on Aug. 27 with an ankle injury. “He was never fully healthy,” coach Dennis Allen said at the recent NFL combine. “And every time he got healthy, the ankle reared its ugly head again and he was back down. There were a couple of plays in there ... the Dallas game, maybe, where he got a run over on the sideline and was able to lower his shoulder and really finish a run off really well. So there are plays in there I can think of that are exciting and encouraging to me. But, again, he’s got very limited experience and limited exposure.”

Looking ahead: Big things are expected out of a healty Murray, especially with Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. “I think Latavius is one of those guys that we’re anxious to see be healthy and get out there and play,” Allen said. “He’s a big back that’s got excellent speed and excellent size. He runs tough ... we’ll find out a lot more about Latavius Murray as we go through the offseason program and into training camp.”

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin,WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera.

Rookie glance: TE Mychal Rivera

February, 28, 2014
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How acquired: Sixth-round draft pick (No. 184 overall) out of Tennessee

2013 season: At 6-feet-3, Rivera made up for his relative lack of height with an uncanny athleticism as a pass catcher. Technically, he started only three games but played in all 16. He became a go-to pass catcher for Raiders quarterbacks in the second half of the season as 27 of his 38 catches and three of his four touchdown receptions came after Week 8. Veteran Jeron Mastrud was Oakland's starting tight end but he only caught seven passes, or 96 yards, and fellow rookie tight end Nick Kasa was more of a special teams player. Rivera's run-blocking needed work, as it does for most rookies on offense.

Looking ahead: Mastrud is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and unless the Raiders go out and get Jimmy Graham, Rivera should be the Raiders' starting tight end in 2014. An offseason of refining his blocking techniques should be in order for Rivera, who would be lethal were he two inches taller. He was already the Raiders' best pass-catching tight end as he averaged 10.7 yards per catch but also had six receptions of at least 19 yards.

The Raiders' other 2013 rookies who finished the season on the roster: RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler and DT Stacy McGee.

Rookie glance: DT Stacy McGee

February, 27, 2014
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How acquired: Sixth-round draft pick (No. 205 overall) out of Oklahoma

2013 season: Was a head-scratcher of a pick for the regime of Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen, what with their stated desire to bring in "high-character" players and McGee's rap sheet at Oklahoma. But Stacy McGeekept his nose clean and played hard when in games. In fact, he played in 15 games, missing one with a shoulder injury, and had five starts in the Raiders' last seven games at nose tackle. The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder was an imposing figure in the trenches and had 26 tackles, 15 solo, with a sack, and a fumble recovery.

Looking ahead: With interior defensive linemen Pat Sims, Daniel Muir and Vance Walker all about to become unrestricted free agents, the future could be now for McGee, especially if he adds bulk to become a prototypical nose tackle. He was a pleasant surprise in 2013 and should be counted on for even more in 2014, especially if the Raiders show more 3-4 alignments.

The Raiders' other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin and WR Brice Butler .

Rookie glance: WR Brice Butler

February, 25, 2014
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How acquired: Seventh-round draft pick (No. 209 overall) out of San Diego State

2013 season: Considered somewhat of a reach pick so late in the draft, Butler had NFL bloodlines as his father Bobby was a first-round pick and 12-year veteran as a defensive back with the Atlanta Falcons from 1981 through 1992. But Raiders receivers coach Ted Gilmore had the younger Butler at USC (Butler transferred to SDSU for his last season) and obviously liked him. Butler played in 10 games, starting two. He was active in the Raiders’ first seven games, and caught a pass in his first six NFL games, but none after Oct. 13. For the season, Butler caught nine passes for 103 yards, averaging 11.4 yards per catch.

Looking ahead: A “tweener” as a receiver -- he’s not a big possession guy, nor is he a prototypical burner. Being inactive for four of Oakland’s last five games, including the final three, might not bode well for his future with the Raiders, especially if they draft Sammy Watkins. But Butler has nice hands, he does appear to be ahead of 2012 draft pick Juron Criner on the depth chart, and veteran Jacoby Ford will be an unrestricted free agent.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, OG Lamar Mady, and QB Matt McGloin.

Rookie glance: QB Matt McGloin

February, 21, 2014
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How acquired: Undrafted free agent

2013 season: Initialy a fourth-string training camp arm for the Oakland Raiders, the Penn State product worked his way up past fourth-round draft pick Tyler Wilson, expensive acquisition Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor to start six games, appearing in seven. McGloin’s skill set as more of a pure drop-back passer more closely resembled what the Raiders wanted to run on offense, and it showed ... early. McGloin’s first pass as an NFL starter went for a touchdown, and he threw eight touchdowns and was also intercepted eight times. McGloin threw for 1,547 yards on 55.9 percent passing, and had a passer rating of 76.1. His record as a starter was 1-5.

Looking ahead: While McGloin was replaced by Pryor for the season finale against the Denver Broncos, coach Dennis Allen said McGloin showed enough to have a future with the franchise. Now, does that mean he’s going to be the starter going forward? Not likely. In fact, Allen reiterated at the NFL combine that he was not sure next year’s starter was on the roster at this time. For the Raiders to truly upgrade the position, you’d probably see an established veteran starting with McGloin either the backup or No. 3 quarterback.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins and OG Lamar Mady.

Rookie glance: OL Lamar Mady

February, 21, 2014
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How acquired: Undrafted free agent

2013 season: The Youngstown State product spent the first two weeks of the regular season on the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad before injuries on the offensive line precipitated his promotion. He remained on the 53-man roster the rest of the season, appearing in seven games. Mady, who saw most of his time on special teams, also proved competent at right guard and left guard.

Looking ahead: The Raiders re-signed the exclusive rights free agent earlier this month so that must mean they like him, right? Sure, but it can also mean next to nothing if Oakland goes out and revamps the entire offensive line. Still, he did not embarrass himself and actually acquitted himself quite well, thank you very much. Is he a starter on a championship-caliber club? Probably not. But he was a solid backup for a rebuilding team. How does he fit in Year 1 of the Raiders’ Reconstruction? Stay tuned.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins.

Rookie glance: WR/KR Greg Jenkins

February, 20, 2014
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How acquired: Undrafted free agent

2013 season: Greg Jenkins, a converted college quarterback from Alabama State, impressed the Oakland Raiders enough in training camp that he was afforded a spot on their practice squad. He worked on his new position for the season’s first 10 games before being promoted to the active roster, where he saw time as both the kick returner (10 for 221 yards) and punt returner (four for 42 yards). In his second career game, at Dallas on Thanksgiving, he recovered a fumble on the game’s opening kickoff and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.

Looking ahead: That Jenkins came off the practice squad to supplant Jacoby Ford as the team’s primary kick returner spoke volumes about not only how far Ford fell in the organization’s estimation, but also what the Raiders thought about Jenkins. Still, it will be interesting to see how he responds to an entire offseason as a veteran, so to speak, and if he stops making fair catches inside the 10-yard line, as he did at least twice.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: G Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey, S Shelton Johnson.

Rookie glance: S Shelton Johnson

February, 18, 2014
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How acquired: Undrafted free agent

2013 season: Shelton Johnson, like cornerback Chance Casey, was an intriguing figure to fans in training camp and was rewarded for his hard-hitting style with a spot on the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad. Johnson, who played collegiately at Wisconsin, was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 7 and was active for the Raiders’ final four games of the season. He had three special-teams tackles and recovered a fumble off a muffed San Diego Chargers punt in the season’s penultimate game. In the season finale, Johnson had two tackles, one solo, on defense against the Denver Broncos.

Looking ahead: In getting on the field for actual game snaps, Johnson gave the Raiders something to chew on. Especially with safeties Charles Woodson and Usama Young about to become unrestricted free agents. The wild card in all of this secondary shuffling, though, is the health of strong safety Tyvon Branch, who did not play after breaking his lower right leg in Week 2.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: WR Greg Jenkins, G Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson, CB Chance Casey.

Rookie glance: CB Chance Casey

February, 18, 2014
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How acquired: Undrafted free agent

2013 season: Casey was a fan favorite in training camp and showed enough to the Oakland Raiders’ staff to earn a spot on the team’s practice squad. The Baylor product stayed there for the Raiders’ first 12 games before being activated to the 53-man roster on Dec. 7 and being active for the Raiders’ game at the New York Jets the following day. Casey was inactive the following two games, but in the season finale, he recovered a blocked punt at the Denver Broncos’ 24-yard line in the third quarter.

Looking ahead: Casey was more of a special-teams guy so it’s hard to say he made a mark to become a regular part of the Raiders’ secondary. Still, with Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and Phillip Adams all free agents, there should be an opportunity to compete.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: S Shelton Johnson, WR Greg Jenkins, G Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Ryan Robinson.

Rookie glance: DE Ryan Robinson

February, 14, 2014
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How acquired: Undrafted free agent

2013 season: The Oakland Raiders essentially thought Robinson (Oklahoma State) beat out seventh-round draft pick David Bass (Missouri Western State) for the team’s final defensive end spot on the roster as Bass was cut. But while Bass surfaced with the Chicago Bears and played in 12 games, starting one, and had a sack with 23 tackles and an interception, Robinson appeared in 12 games for the Raiders and had two solo tackles with a pass defensed.

Looking ahead: The Raiders need production out of their pass rush and Robinson did not exactly provide that, granted, in relatively limited opportunities. Prototypical edge rusher is one of Oakland’s many needs in free agency and the draft, and the Raiders have vowed to upgrade the position, so it will be tough for Robinson to maintain his standing as the backup right defensive end.

The Raiders’ other 2013 rookies that finished the season on the roster: S Shelton Johnson, CB Chance Casey, WR Greg Jenkins, G Lamar Mady, QB Matt McGloin, WR Brice Butler, DT Stacy McGee, TE Mychal Rivera, RB Latavius Murray, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore, OT Menelik Watson, CB D.J. Hayden.

Midseason Report: Oakland Raiders

November, 6, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- You knew this was going to be a rebuilding year for the Oakland Raiders and, before Sunday's embarrassing 49-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland was playing above expectations. Indeed, after a 4-12 season last year, the Raiders had a chance to win their fourth game at this year's midway points.

Alas, the Eagles and Nick Foles, who threw a record-tying seven touchdowns, had different plans and it makes you wonder if these are indeed the same old Raiders who have not been to the playoffs since 2002, let alone had a winning season since that Super Bowl campaign. The difference, at least on the surface, is this team has been in every game save two -- at Denver and against the Eagles.

But the NFL is a results-oriented business and at the midway point, the Raiders sit at 3-5.

 

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