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Position group analysis: Tight ends

Fourth in a series analyzing Raiders position groups with a contingent of scouts and coaches in Indianapolis at the scouting combine:

Starter: Zach Miller. Backups: Tony Stewart, Brandon Myers.

Review: Once upon a time the Raiders being laughed at behind the scenes when they signed Miller, their second round draft pick in 2007. It wasn’t that they’d taken Miller so much as they ended up paying him about a million dollars more than necessary when looking at the way contracts were slotted before and after him.

Turns out it was money well spent.

Miller is proof the Raiders don’t always go for the biggest, fastest and most imposing physical specimen. On this occasion, the Raiders instead went with moderately-sized player who wasn’t a basketball or track star and whose best attribute was finding open areas and catching a football. He’s the anti-Rickey Dudley.

Over the past three seasons, Miller’s receptions have gone from 44 as a rookie to 56 and 66. His yardage has escalated from 444 to 778 to 805. While not a blazer, Miller had a 63-yard touchdown reception in 2008 and an 86-yard catch in 2009. He’s pretty much the only receiver who developed any kind of chemistry with JaMarcus Russell.

If there’s a criticism of Miller it’s that he doesn’t get into the end zone often enough _ seven touchdown receptions among his 166 catches.

Miller’s backup, Tony Stewart is a core special teams player who caught 10 passes for 78 yards and is a physical blocker. Brandon Myers had an excellent training camp and caught four passes for 19 yards. His forced fumble and strip on a kickoff return against Cincinnati set-up a game-winning field goal.

Contract status: All tight ends are under contract.

What’s next: Miller had two concussions last season and missed a game because of his second one. With the NFL paying much closer attention to concussions, the Raiders will be looking hard at young tight ends. Myers also missed time due to a concussion last year.

It may not be someone who plays tight end at the moment _ Al Davis is fond of tinkering with athletes at the position. If Miller can keep his head clear, the Raiders can comfortably experiment with the tight end position in hopes of finding someone unique while at the same time knowing they’ve got a classic, sure-handed tight end on the roster for the next several years.

Contract status:

What’s next:

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Raiders4eve

    Man, I don’t know why you guys want Bulaga, the guy has red flag on him. Read all the knock on this guy besides the short arm.

    LT Bryan Bulaga projects as a first-round pick despite a thyroid condition that forced him in and out of the lineup this season. Scouts love his 6-foot-6 frame and his run-blocking ability, although Bulaga was thoroughly handled by Michigan’s speedy DE Brandon Graham during the season.Bryan Bulaga’s arms measured at just 33 1/4 inches. This shouldn’t be a huge deal, but it could be enough to scare some teams off and keep him out of the top 10.

  • SteveAlford21

    4eve, I’m not saying he’s my #1 choice, but I AM saying that I’d rather have him… or any of the top five OTs in the draft… than Dez or any other player that doesn’t fill a need.

  • Nnamdi21

    SteveAlford21 Says:
    February 26th, 2010 at 7:07 pm
    Debo:

    Yes, we have more than one draft choice. HOWEVER, every pick that isn’t used to address a need means that we have a lower quality set of players available for use in addressing that need when we get around to it. The fact that we have MORE picks doesn’t matter when we can’t get guys as good with the later picks.

    =============================

    Actually, our later round picks have been more hits than misses especially compared to our 1st round DPs the last 3 yrs or so.

    Gems like Tyvon Branch (4th rnd) Trevor Scott (6th rnd) Chaz Schilens (7th rnd) Matt Shaunessy (3rd rnd) Louis Murphy (4th rnd)Brandon Myers (6th rnd)

    Granted, its early in their careers and most have yet to prove themselves, but they’ve shown signs of life and can’t be considered out right busts at all.

    ===============================

    I think that our first pick HAS TO BE either Okung (probably gone by then), Davis, Bulaga, or Williams. All are top-10 quality OTs, so it won’t be “reaching” just to fill a need. I’m not denying that Dez is a fantastic talent, but I wouldn’t endorse taking him even if we had TWO picks in the top ten; we just have too many MORE PRESSING needs.

    =============================

    Agreed.

    No way Davis pays top ten money to two “rookie” receivers.

    Deep draft on BOTH sides of the line. Pray we go that direction. Williams would be my pick at RT.

    ==========================

    Hopefully we get Dansby or another MLB through FA/trade, but if we go to draft day as we are now, our top four priorities have to be OT, DT, G, MLB. I don’t think we can afford to use our first five picks (four in the first 3 rounds) on any other positions, no matter WHO is available. We don’t have the luxury of affording to waste a pick on anything other than OT, DT, G, or MLB. Nothing else will improve our team enough.

    =========================

    Dansby will be over priced and is along the lines of the two guys we’ve already got. He’s good, but not great. Not going to happen anyway.
    Maybe on Madden.
    Wouldn’t be surprised to see us take Hayden at CB if he runs a nice 40. A little short but would be a step up at Nickle over Routt and can return the ball too.

    DT may not be on the table for us in the first or second round.

    Just the way Davis seems to work.

    Trent Williams would be a start on the O line but CENTER has been a glaring need since Barrett Robbins freek owt and is THE most important position in the ZBS.

  • Raiders4eve

    Davis, Iuputi, Bulaga and Campbell all have potential busts written over them, Okung and T Williams seem to me the most legit guys, if not pick the best talent at 8, the superstar in the making Dez Bryant, a sure hand and go to guy. Schillens is not dependable, Murphy has potential as number 2 wide receiver, DHB is going to struggle at least another year, we need a guy who comes in and does what Crabtree did for the 49ers, a guy who can command respect right away not like Cable lies about DHB opening lane for others, he was getting man handled every play. Dez Bryant is a freak of nature and he runs fast you guys will remember me when he runs a 4.3, I seen him play, in the red zone he unstoppable. This offense needs a TD scoring machine like Dez, we can get OL in the second round and he might be as good as Bulaga or Iuputi, for example Calloway seems good enough to become a RT. We really need a RT not an LT, Henderson is our LT until AL decides to move him to RT.

  • Nnamdi21

    Raiders4eve Says:
    February 26th, 2010 at 9:13 pm
    Man, I don’t know why you guys want Bulaga, the guy has red flag on him. Read all the knock on this guy besides the short arm.

    LT Bryan Bulaga projects as a first-round pick despite a thyroid condition that forced him in and out of the lineup this season. Scouts love his 6-foot-6 frame and his run-blocking ability, although Bulaga was thoroughly handled by Michigan’s speedy DE Brandon Graham during the season.Bryan Bulaga’s arms measured at just 33 1/4 inches. This shouldn’t be a huge deal, but it could be enough to scare some teams off and keep him out of the top 10.

    ==========================

    No way that happens. Top 10 teams NEED linemen and despite his, teams will REACH for Bulaga.

  • Nnamdi21

    354. An awesome Oakland receiver without an O line to block for him?

    Randy Moss 2006.

  • priesttj

    I’ve been reading some post today and this argument that NT plays in a 4/3 is wrong even if someone typed NT for a few LDT’s. The term NT was derived from from the 3/4 formation where the DT is a 2gap player and spearheads the defense. With two 3tech falnking him on both sides L and R. To use that term in a 4/3 alignment belies the description and term NOSE TACKLE.

    Where the 4/3 alignment employs TWO DT’s L and R a 1tech and a 3tech which are different positions but play a 1gap system. The 1tech is uaually bigger and more stout angles into the Agap to tie up the C and ROG while the 3tech is free to take on the LOG penetrate and disrupt he is the most important player in that defense outside of the WLB and edge rusher which used to be called the open end.

    To call a 1gap 1tech a NT is like calling an ILB in a 3/4 system a MLB it doesn’t make sense………period

  • SteveAlford21

    4eve… WHY would we take another receiver when we can’t protect long enough for a play to develop and get him the ball? Offensive line is the only way to go.

    Nnamdi: The reason that our later picks have been hits is because they’ve been filling needs rather than going for talent without an environment in which they can flourish. (Excluding Stonehands last year, that would have been a fail even if our O Line and QB play were fantastic). I’m convinced that if we’d picked for need in early rounds for the past three years, those picks would have fared better than we’ve seen so far. Just my opinion, though.

    Good night, all… time for me to head off. I’ll check back tomorrow and read what follows here in case anyone replies to what I’ve said.

  • SteveAlford21

    Priest, you basically just said EXACTLY the same thing that I said to RRs several hours ago. Once again, good night all.

  • priesttj

    Having an off day against Brandon Graham is not a reason to shy away from a LT. Brandon Graham on a good would wreak havoc on most LT’s he is an edge rusher supreme. When he’s on he can look like Dwight Freeney his center a gravity is outstanding and his leverage is top shelf. He’s a lot stronger than what meets the eye. Brandon is one bad boy…..don’t sleep!

  • http://atm Raider O

    I want us to draft McClain & Spoon to replace Kirk & TH.

    1- ILBMcClain
    2- OLB Spoon
    3- OT or DT
    3- DE Austen Lane
    4- OT, DT, or LB Micah Johnson
    5- WR/ KR Jacoby Ford
    5- CB Walter Thurmond
    7- DT Travis Ivey

  • http://atm Raider O

    I want McClain, Spoon, Austen Lane, Jacoby Ford, and Walter Thurmond.

    Draft OLine with the other 3 picks!!!

  • priesttj

    Raider O T Hpward when moved to the SLB away from all the responsibilty of the WSLB he played well. They gave T SCott the WSLB spot and he excelled that way he could be free of the TE and give the blitz look and roam more essentially played the elephant. That’s why late in the year yu saw howard covering TE’s a lot more where earlier in the year he was blitzing and covering space. They switched it and it worked really well. Kirk as we have learned is not a true MLB he’s more suited for a 4/3 system inside.So hs responsibilties are not so wide ranged.

    Kirk is a good ILB he’s just not a MLB plain and simple. If we were to get a Brandon Spikes who’s more gifted in terms of that respnsibility. Even Micah Johnson who is a “MLB” that is what he is and that is all he is. Thse guy’s tend to anchor your defense much better.

  • priesttj

    Sorry!! Kirk is more suited for the 3/4 system inside.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Top 10 Defense:

    RE: Austen Lane
    DT: Seymour
    DT: TK
    LE: Ellis/ Matt S
    OLB: Spoon
    ILB: McClain
    OLB: Scott
    CB: Nnamdi
    CB: CJ/ Walter Thurmond/ Huff
    FS: Huff/ Branch
    SS: Branch/ Mitchell

    That’s a Good Defense! Next year we add a DT, and we should have a great D.

  • http://atm Raider O

    I like TH, but I think Spoon is better, and will cost us less as a 2nd RD pick than resigning TH.

  • http://atm Raider O

    BHP,

    Do you like McClain?

  • priesttj

    Raider O I like Lane but I would take the kid from USC or Brandon Graham over him. Also Matt S has to start that kid is just way to good for spot duty. I don’t have an issue with Spon becaue I really like him but to just dump Howard I don’t think is wise. Also I leave Huff right where he is and get a young corner like Jerome Murphy and coach him up. Our secondaruy is very good wether you guy’s realize it or not while we may give up a play here or there we’re pretty consistent. You can’t ask for perfection. Routt tends to lose concentration at times but he is a very good 3rd corner. Better than most starters.

  • http://atm Raider O

    TH can cover (he started his career at UTEP as a S), but he doesn’t do well against the Run. Spoon can cover, and he is an asset against the run.

  • priesttj

    Lve McClain but we need a top level OT and there are 4 of them, MLB can be had even as late as the 5th rnd. A MLB is basically a meathead a thumper and there are some very stout smart MLB that can be had late. Mcclain is top shelf but MLB are much easier to get than OT’s by far. If you can get a legitimate LT like A Davis I think it is a must. Even Bulaga or T Williams it’s just too critical a position.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Graham and Griffen will be gone by the 2nd RD. Austen Lane maybe available in the 3rd.
    I’m really high on that Kid. I also like Walter Thurmond from Oregon, and I think he will be a steal in the 2nd day due to injury last year at college. He didn’t play most of last season.

  • priesttj

    Howard sometimes will sleep on a run play it’s true but he is so talented in coverage on TE’s it frees up Tyvon to stick his head in on runs we can get away with him in this defense at the SLB where he got us killed on the other side. Tyvon makes a huge difference. Now Spoon is a better player but it’s not necessarily a need truth be told Rickey Brown is very good at SLB. If we can get a MLB say in the 4th or 5th we’ll be fine. That kid from Florida St. looked really good at SLB I think his name is Watkins.

  • http://atm Raider O

    I like A Davis and Okung, but I like McClain over Williams & Bulaga.

    I like Suh, McCoy, Okung, Davis, McClain, Or Haden. In that Order.
    DEZ B & Berry are Studs, but we drafted DHB last year, and we have talent and depth at Safety. I’m not sold on the top 2 QBs.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Watson us a good player, but he is small under 230.

  • priesttj

    Those QB’s are garbage I wouldn’t touch any of them in the 1st rnd. Yu hav eot be careful when you draft Raider O MLB’s don’t help you win SB’s OT’s do. While McClain is a absolute stud he plays aa position which is easy to fill. One of the hardest Positions to fill is OT and when you have a chance to get a good one and you pass on it. You saw what happened to us last year because we passed on the OT’s they are just waaay tooo important. I can get a MLB in the 4th to stop the run it easy. Kirk was drafted in the 3rd rnd. I can pick a MLB blind folded. OT’s are very hard to get. Trust me.

  • Raiders4eve

    Priesttj

    What about the Thyroid disease Bulaga got and his short arms and that he struggles in pass blocking while being a stellar in running blocking, reminds of Kwame Harris a solid run blocker but bad pass blocker? Another thing is that this kid is coming out as a junior, he hasn’t played much compared to other seniors like Kyle Calloway. Why take a guy with so many questions when there are others who could potentially solve our real problem which is RT not LT. Henderson was gassed out in the end of the year but was solid for most of the time.

  • http://atm Raider O

    I agree with you 100%. spoon is not a need player. He is a luxury pick that we must have. lol
    I like the kid a lot, but I think he will be gone in the 1st. If he is available in the 2nd, I think we should sigh him even we keep TH.

    It’s about time we started drafting the best available player.
    We reached for Nnamdi, Brayton, Washington, Routt, and DHB. (DMC was the best player available that year, and JR was a top talent QB at a need position)

    No More Reaching.

  • priesttj

    A good example is Brian Cushing wh IMO was a top shelf MLB he went at the 15th pick. Don’t be surprised if McCalin suffers a similar fate. Ray Lewis went like 13th overall.

  • priesttj

    Rey Maualuga went in the 2nd rnd and he is as good a MLB as you could wish for.

  • lefty12

    Davis, Williams,or Okung.One will be there at #8 and we’d better grab him.

  • http://atm Raider O

    BHP,

    I can live with an OT, as long as it’s Ikung or A Davis.

    Top 8 players are:
    1- Suh/ McCoy
    2- McCoy/ Suh
    3- Berry
    4- Okung
    5- Haden
    6- McClain
    7- Dez Bryant
    8- A Davis

    We don’t have to agree on the order, but do you agree with the player selection.

  • priesttj

    Bulaga struggled in pass pro? who told you that? Bulaga strength is his pass pro. He is hands down the most polished OT in this draft that’s why they’re wondering if he is as good as he’ll get. His reach is a definite concern but you have to be careful when you don’t let the film speak for itself. That kid was an outstanding LT I saw him against Derrick Morgan and he was very good.

    Now Anthony Davis is the guy I’m starting to really fall for he just is very good now but has tremendous upside. Like Walter Jones or Ryan Clady. He has a ton of potential while being very good NOW.

  • Raiders4eve

    Priesttj

    Bro, with all due respect Ricky Brown seems lost at the game, I remember in preseason against the 49ers, Alex Smith carries that dude tackles him bad at their 10 yard line, imagine Alex Smith is 185 Lbs QB while Ricky Brown is 225 at least, I got clowned that the day, watch yourself at 20 secs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt0goA9XbwQ

  • http://atm Raider O

    Lefty,

    I think 8 will be reaching for T Williams. He is not a top 10 talent IMHO. Top 30.

  • lefty12

    O,Bradford or Claussen-perhaps both will be taken before we pick,especially Bradford who has added over 10 pounds of muscle by working out since the end of the college season.

  • priesttj

    RaiderO why do you say that about Williams?

  • http://atm Raider O

    BHP,

    Watch that clip and see how TH allowed the runner to have the edge.
    We need at ILB, and SLB.

  • BadMoodGuy

    The one thing the Raiders have consistently done lately is to draft directly to their needs in the early rounds. More recently it has been the best character person that fits their needs, but needs have directed the picks. If that holds, OT will be the pick with the best ‘worker’ that fits their system that is left when they pick. I know jack about any of them and their overall personalities, but I think somebody that does can pin down who the Raiders will pick fairly easily.

  • http://atm Raider O

    I see him being a RT in the NFL.

  • priesttj

    Raiders4eve, Oh come now my man aren’t we being a little overreactive. So he stinks as a HB that’s not the position he plays. I’ve noticed when he was a SLB we played the run much better even when Kirk was at MLB. Brown is very instinctive and aggressive. Now if you asked who would I take out of three I’d take Spoon but the other 2 aren’t bad.

  • lefty12

    I also forgot Campbell from Maryland.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Lefty,

    And that’s why I think one of these players will be available: McClain, A Davis, or J Haden.

  • Seymour Bush

    # priesttj Says:
    February 26th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I’ve been reading some post today and this argument that NT plays in a 4/3 is wrong even if someone typed NT for a few LDT’s. The term NT was derived from from the 3/4 formation where the DT is a 2gap player and spearheads the defense. With two 3tech falnking him on both sides L and R. To use that term in a 4/3 alignment belies the description and term NOSE TACKLE.

    Where the 4/3 alignment employs TWO DT’s L and R a 1tech and a 3tech which are different positions but play a 1gap system. The 1tech is uaually bigger and more stout angles into the Agap to tie up the C and ROG while the 3tech is free to take on the LOG penetrate and disrupt he is the most important player in that defense outside of the WLB and edge rusher which used to be called the open end.

    To call a 1gap 1tech a NT is like calling an ILB in a 3/4 system a MLB it doesn’t make sense………period
    =================================================

    For all you guys that think this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about this is a pretty good description of the tackle assignments in an even front. While Under Tackle and Nose Tackle are used describing Even Fronts, basically Priesttj’s description is 99.99% accurate and well written. You guys might want to read it.

  • lefty12

    O,as i stated earlier,I’m more concerned about the position than the name and I hope we take a Tackle-whomever we decide is the best one for us.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Lefty,

    I like Campbell, and I forgot about him.
    He is a top 10 Talent.

  • priesttj

    Raider O as i said at that time he was playing in space more which is more difficult if you’re not aggressive when they put him over the TE he was much better. That switch with TH and TS was one of the best moves the coaches made all year long.

    I wont disagree about T williams as a RT right now and I will say it is exactly what we need right now.

  • lefty12

    O,I also agree with Priest about getting a run stuffing MLB in later rounds.We will be able to get someone like Florida Pete’s guy last year(J.Brinkley) later.

  • Raiders4eve

    I think Ricky Brown is solid SLB in coverage but is too weak against the run, whenever we played Howard, Morrison and Brown, our Run defense collapsed, if you don’t believe me check the the games them three started, we played better when Scott became a LB he is strong and can shed away the blockers. As far who I want in the draft, I would do option A or B depending who is taken.

    ) Okung OT or Dez Bryant WR
    2) Spikes MLB or Weatherspoon MLB
    3) Mitch Petrus OG or Arenas CB
    3) Jay Ross NT or Marshall Newhouse OG
    4) Eric Olsen or Matt Tennant (Centers is a need)
    5) Jacoby Ford WR/KR or Linval Joseph DT
    5) Sam Young OT or Ciron Black OT

  • http://atm Raider O

    So,

    Suh, McCoy, or Okung if Available, and if not: McClain, A Davis, Campbell, or Haden should be the pick

  • http://atm Raider O

    3 is a reach for Jay Ross. We can draft him in the 5th. IMO

    Lefty,

    Micah Johnson is a good MLB who we can draft in the 2nd day.