Over the past two seasons, the Oakland Raiders let 2010 Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller walk away in free agency and released Kevin Boss, the $16 million tight end signed after the lockout to replace Miller.
The release of Boss, which was done for salary cap purposes, couldn't have come at a worse time as the tight end is expected to play a more prominent role in the offense under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee reports.
"Last year, the tight ends were kind of nonexistent, to be honest with you," Raiders tight end Brandon Myers said. "This year, we've got multiple guys in there rotating in and out, and there is opportunity for the tight ends to catch some balls. It's just up to us to make the plays and get the coaches and the quarterbacks to trust us."
Raiders tight ends caught 47 passes for 535 yards and three touchdowns last season. Remove Boss' production and you've got 19 receptions for 167 yards and zero touchdowns, with Myers accounting for most of that production.
While Knapp has not made frequent use of two-tight end personnel sets as an offensive coordinator -- the 2009 Seattle Seahawks employed two-tight end sets on just 13 percent of the plays (31st in the league) according to the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 -- tight ends have produced solid numbers in his offense.
Alge Crumpler led the Falcons in receiving in all three seasons Knapp was the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator and Miller was the Raiders top receiver in 2008, the second season of Knapp's first stint in Oakland. John Carlson caught over 50 passes and led the team with seven receiving touchdowns during Knapp's lone season running the Seahawks' offense.
After spending the last two seasons as an assistant with the Houston Texans, where Gary Kubiak does use a lot of two-tight end sets, Knapp's use of the position might have evolved. Though the group lacks experience, the position boasts Myers and 2011 late-round picks Richard Gordon and David Ausberry occupying the top-three spots on the depth chart, head coach Dennis Allen likes the progress the group has made during the OTAs.
"The one thing I'd say about the tight ends is, what was perceived to be an area of weakness coming in, I've seen some significant improvement," Allen said. "I'm looking forward to seeing what they do in training camp."