Raiders seek tight end to play a role

There is a chance the Oakland Raiders may be joining the AFC West party when it comes to utilizing the tight end as a receiver. In a division where the Kansas City Chiefs have Tony Gonzalez, the San Diego Chargers Antonio Gates and the Denver Broncos a committee of successful pass catchers, the Raiders since returning to Oakland have resisted making the tight end a featured part of their offense.

Starting tight end Courtney Anderson had 24 receptions for 303 yards last season, the lowest total for Oakland's top receiving tight end in 16 years.

The Raiders haven't had a tight end catch 40 or more passes since Rickey Dudley had his best year in 1997 with 48 receptions for 787 yards and seven touchdowns.

And while Dudley's frequent drops and lack of fire made him an underachiever in the eyes of Raiders fans, the fact is he caught 29 touchdown passes from 1996 through 2000 -- a figure surpassed only by wide receiver Tim Brown during that span.

In the five years since Dudley left as a free agent, Raiders tight ends have found the end zone 16 times.

Enter Tom Walsh, the surprising choice of coach Art Shell as offensive coordinator who worked on the Raiders staff from 1982-94.

In his first five years with the Raiders, the leading receiver was tight end Todd Christensen, including a 95-catch, 1,153-yard season in 1986. He was on the offensive staff the last time a tight end led the Raiders in receiving, when converted running back Ethan Horton had 53 catches for 650 yards in 1991.

At the only public viewing of the Raiders during the mandatory, post-draft minicamp, tight ends were noticeably more involved in full team drills.

"This offense seems more tight-end friendly to me," said James Adkisson, a converted receiver who enjoyed a solid mini-camp. "The tight end gets to read a lot of things. If you're doing the right thing, you should come open. Seven times out of 10 you should be open if you're making the right read."

Anderson, a seventh-round draft pick out of San Jose State in 2004, ran off a pair of second-round draft picks in Doug Jolley (2002) and Teyo Johnson (2003). At 6-feet-7, 270 pounds, he has the size to be a blocker and the hands and athleticism to be a solid receiver, although consistency has been an issue.

He is joined on the roster by Randal Williams, a converted wide receiver who is a core special teams player, six-year veteran Marcellus Rivers and O.J. Santiago, a seven-year veteran who was out of football the last two years.

Adkisson, approached last year by owner Al Davis about switching from wideout to tight end, may have been the most intriguing prospect at the first camp.

"He has some talent," Shell said. "He has the ability to catch the ball and we all know he can run."

SB Report Top Stories