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Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera, after strong rookie season, hopes for a big leap in both wins and stats in 2014

Filed for print plus extra notes . . .

After finishing fifth among all NFL rookie tight ends in receptions, the last thing on the mind of Mychal Rivera was to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

“I really looked in the mirror at myself,’’ Rivera said Saturday after the Raiders completed a controlled scrimmage. “I knew I could do a lot better than I did last year, even though people were surprised at what I did. I have high expectations of myself.’’

In his second-year out of Tennessee, Rivera has his sights on a won-loss record far better than 4-12, and significantly statistics than 38 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns.

One of the highlights Saturday was the sight of Rivera splitting a seam between veteran cornerbacks Tarrel Brown and Carlos Rogers and hauling in a pass inside the 5-yard line from second-string cornerback Derek Carr.

Rivera later caught a fade route in the end zone from Matt Schaub.

“One of the guys that has shown the most improvement from a year ago is Mike Rivera,’’ offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “ He looks more athletic. He’s stronger. He’s more confident. I said to him the other day and we said it in our meeting, there’s a little bit of swagger to him this season.’’

At 6-foot-3 245 pounds, Rivera is a tight end in name only. He can line up in the backfield, split out wide and go in motion. Only occasionally does he line up as a conventional tight end.

“I tell people all the time I play four or five different positions,’’ Rivera said. “I go through the playbook as an offensive lineman I go through the playbook as a receiver and as a fullback,’’ Rivera said. “Then you’ve got to look at the quarterback’s eyes and see how he’s going to play it. You’ve got to stay in your play book all the time.’’

A sixth-round draft pick out of Tennessee, Rivera displayed a knack for finding open areas almost immediately. Some of it is from preparation, most of it from instinct.

“`I think he does an outstanding job with his feel in the passing game,’’ Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s able to make plays in a contested environment. Sometimes, with limited separation, he’s still able to come out and make the play.’’

Rivera said his “swagger’’ comes from an off-season of hard work as well as self-confidence.

“I worked out every day, I kept my mind on football every day,’’ Rivera said. “I used the 4-12 record as a motivating factor. I want to win in this league, and I want to be one of the best tight ends in this league. I see that as attainable. I can get that.’’

While he may never be a standard in-line tight end _ his skill set makes him valuable as a chess piece _ Rivera is working diligently on his blocking. he said blocking was 50 percent technique and 50 percent desire.

“You can have all the desire in the world but if you don’t know where you’re going you’re not going to block the right guy,” Rivera said. “If you know what you’re doing and have the heart to do it, you can block anybody.”

– Defensive tackle Stacy McGee practiced after coming off the non-football injury list with a broken thumb. Also returning were defensive end Justin Tuck (groin), defensive tackle Antonio Smith (groin) and wide receivers Juron Criner (hamstring) and Greg Little (hamstring).

Criner made a leaping sideline catch, drawing cheers the crowd.

“He’s a big receiver that has great hands, strong hands, he can go make a play in a contested environment,” Allen said. “Those are the flashes that you see out of Juron. The question is can he do it on a consistent basis? And can he stay injury free? If he’s able to do that, then he’s a talented football player.”

– Outside linebacker Sio Moore watched from the sidelines with a rib injury. Miles Burris, competing with Moore to be the strong side starter, intercepted a Matt Schaub pass and twice exceeded the specified limits of contact by bringing ballcarriers to the ground.

– The controlled scrimmage was the first time during camp coaches stayed on the sidelines and didn’t shout instructions, with players accountable for all calls and plays on the field.

“It wasn’t a live scrimmage. It was a scripted scrimmage, a lot of different situations that we tried to work and tried to incorporate into the scrimmage, different down and distance type of things,” Allen said. “Some red zone fringe area type of plays, really as much to get them mentally thinking about those situations in the game as much as it was to actually go through the physical aspect of playing football. There were some areas obviously that we’ve got to improve on, got sloppy at times.”

The Raiders aren’t planning on going “live” with full-on contact at all during camp.

“It will be controlled all the way through,” Allen said. “We won’t do any of that. We’ll use the preseason games to get all our tackling in. We won’t be doing anything that will be live.”

The closest thing to live contact will be on Aug. 11 and 12 when they visit the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard. Allen said he and Dallas coach Jason Garrett would talk to formulate a practice plan.

– Following the practice, players, coaches and family members enjoyed a barbecue dinner with tables and chairs set up on the grass in front of the field house.

– Rookie defensive tackle Justin Ellis, a fourth-round draft pick, has impressed Allen, who said he “will be a big part of what we do defensively up front.’’

At 6-foot-2, 340 pounds, Ellis can be teamed with 330-pound Pat Sims and 315-pound tackle and end C.J. Wilson for bigger, more powerful short-yardage and goal line defense than the Raiders had at any time over the past few years.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Last!

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    ‘…second-string cornerback Derek Carr.’
    I was worried about that position.

  • AlDavisJr

    NO full contact in the preseason?? That is worrisome. Kinda like a boxer that shadow boxes only. The players need some slobber knocking to get into the sing of things.

  • http://cosmicdanceband.com/ SilverandBlack666

    Second!

  • 0ak R8rs

    Jerry’s signature. A mistake.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    THE signature mistake.

  • Sir Raider Duck, OMS

    The “no full contact” only applies to the scrimmage with the Cowboys. Preseason will be full contact, just like always.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    And Burriss appears to be ignoring that, anyway.

  • SaintKaufman

    Gents. How goes it?

  • http://cosmicdanceband.com/ SilverandBlack666

    Hey Saint good to see you! Watching Madden do a video speech introduction for Ray Guy it was a little odd.

  • mikeschoice

    satele back up with dolphins. not a lot of guys reggies let walk are shing elsewhere.a statement how bad this palce was when he got here.

  • Raider O

    Barksdale and Bryant.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Rivera and Reece are some really good weapons that a good OC should be able to take advantage of with mismatches. They aren’t your typical TE and FB. Olsen better get creative. Got frustrated with him last year, but I’ll chalk that up to having a subpar roster. If he doesn’t make some things happen offensively, please get rid of the guy when the clock shows 00:00 in our final game.

  • JerryMcDonalds#1Fan

    Have u heard from Dell yet?

  • 0ak R8rs

    Huff?

  • Raider O

    Lol
    Are you joking?

  • R8erEduc8er

    I think he was countering you.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Who else you got?

  • 0ak R8rs

    I was hoping to go one for one w him. You ruined my fun.

  • JerryMcDonalds#1Fan

    Sparano interim play caller?

  • mikeschoice

    shiining was the operative word

  • Raider O

    It didn’t take a genius to notice hat Huff was an overpaid underachiever.
    Like I said many times, cutting overpaid underachievers is easy, but loading the team with talent is the hard part.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Lol my bad.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Do you like the current roster?

  • Raider O

    You are not the only one who was frustrated with Olson.

  • mikeschoice

    how that team got 8-8 was a testament to how bad our division was. 6-0 in division 2-10 outside of it

  • Raider O

    I do. It’s not a great roster, but it has potential. It’s the coaching staff I’m not sold on.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Levi

    ‘Oh, and just so you know, Charles Woodson had his hands on a Schaub
    pass again today but dropped it. Presumably it wasn’t an intentional
    drop to keep the media from hitting the panic button.’

    I still think that was a class act from a vet. Y’all will crucify Matty Groves, anyway.

  • SaintKaufman

    Yo 6. Just got home from work, missed it all. Madden slipping a little or what?

  • Raider O

    18 game season? I must have missed 2 games.

  • mikeschoice

    ooops 2-8 just as bad

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    So you agree, he’s done a good job?

  • http://cosmicdanceband.com/ SilverandBlack666

    May have some health issues

  • Raider O

    I’m not going to debate your math skills, but I’m sure you realize that 16-16 is better than 8-24, right?

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Dichotomy time. If he had crap for players, how can you question his coaching?

  • SaintKaufman

    That’s too bad. I remember thinking he was a buffoon when I was younger, I appreciate him more and more the older I get. LOVED that Pompei article about him a few months back.

  • nolimits33

    Reece should be our starting halfback.

  • rifflicks

    Olson has Qb’s that understand the playbook and a better O L this year so Rivera and Reece will get a lot more touches this year

  • Raider O

    Based on his coaching decisions. His ability to adjust, not allowing one player to burn us with the same play 4 times, evaluating young talent when you realize the season is over, his flip flopping on the scheme he believes in, trying to implement a scheme that does not fit the players,etc…. C’mon man.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Priest famously said Sparano gets a pass because he had no O line players, and Tarver get’s a pass because he had no D players, but the head coach has to go, because he didn’t win with those guys.
    When asked, Priest went into one of his quiet modes.

  • SaintKaufman

    Very excited to hear that Olsen has been able to unload the entire playbook on the QB’s this year and that the players are hanging on to what DA is preaching. Very exciting times indeed!

  • Raider O

    Give RM a pass too cause last year wasn’t loaded with talent like this draft.

  • R8erEduc8er

    “It’s been long, long overdue,” Guy said. “But now the Hall of Fame has a complete team.”

  • BuckeyeRaider

    G’evening fellas

  • SaintKaufman

    That’s such a cool line.

  • Raider O

    What’s up Buckeye?

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Disagree. Although I have no answer for Jamaal Charles. I think it wasn’t coaching but pure lack of talent. You see it happening with Mack, Woodson, and Branch? I don’t.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Yep!

  • SaintKaufman

    Dang, you think Chuck has changed that much?? :)

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Yes. Actually a brilliant move on his part. A DB trying to make the team is catching that ball, no matter the repercussions.