Raiders tight end David Ausberry and quarterback Matt Leinart both went to USC. And with the way they are connecting in practice, you may have thought they were there at the same time. In actuality, they have never played together until they worked out together this offseason.
Being that Ausberry is catching most of his passes from Leinart means he is still working with the second team. But with the way he is playing, he could see himself connecting much more often with another former USC quarterback in Oakland-- Carson Palmer.
The first observation that impresses with regard to Ausberry is his size. He has bulked up considerably since last season. He came to the team as a former college wide receiver and he looked it. He was listed at 6-4, 245 last year with a leaner build. Now after a year in the NFL as a tight end, he is looking the part.
"[I'm]265 right now." Said Ausberry. "Last year, I was about 250. At the beginning of the year I was about 245 coming in.
"I don't feel like I lost any [speed] but that just comes with a lot of technique. You gotta know your opponent and be able to separate from people, and that's what I am trying to do.
"It wasn't that hard [putting on weight] if you're lifting a lot. That's pretty much what happened. Playing weight, I will probably be down to 258. It am trying to get more muscle in the upper body and trying to stay fit."
Despite his size, he is still a mismatch for defenders with his wide receiver hands and speed. His added weight has not diminished his ability to get open on linebackers so thus far it has not affected his ability to gain separation on defenders. The benefit to his bulking up is as a pass blocker. In OTA's there is no contact so we have yet to see if he has improved in that area.
Last season he was seen as a guy with a lot of potential and it appears that potential is being realized. He worked hard to live up to some of the expectations of him after he stood out last year's training camp. And in the offseason, that work has continued. He knows what he needs to do and he is doing it.
"I was doing a lot of the same things last year, but now it's pretty much hand in dirt. There's also a lot of formations where I am split out wide and all that, but now it's more about being a real tight end. It feels pretty good.
"Recognizing defensive fronts. Coming from the outside back to the interior, you have to be aware of what's going on in front of you now. You're not reading too many safeties now."
His talents and work ethic has not gone unnoticed by the guy from whom Ausberry hopes to be catching a lot more passes in the near future. He worked out extensively with Palmer in the offseason including spending a month with him and several other Raider players in Los Angeles.
Prior to those workouts, Palmer had some good things to say about Ausberry. Since the workouts, he has had a more glowing endorsement of his skills. Palmers approval means a great deal to Ausberry. …
"A vet like Carson," said Ausberry. "you always want a guy like that in your corner. It helps when you have some sort of relationship with the starting quarterback. You start to feel each other on the field and it helps a lot. I am just blessed to be in this position."
This means Ausberry now has great chemistry with both the Raiders' top two quarterbacks. Which explains why he doesn't miss a beat regardless of who is throwing the passes. And with the way he is playing, he could be moving on up real soon.
"Yeah, that's what I am trying to do. If I get a chance to get out there, I will get it."
Dennis Allen isn't quite ready to jump him up to starter during OTA's when he has yet to see how he performs in his blocking assignments or when he has defenders looking to take him out. But the competition is open to say the least.
"I don't want to put a timetable on it as to when he will develop into a full-time player," said Dennis Allen. "I think he definitely has that ability to. If he keeps getting better we'll play that out as we get through training camp and kind of see where we're at."
The incumbant starter at tight end is Brandon Myers. Also fighting for a spot in the tight end rotation is second year man, Richard Gordon and rookie undrafted free agent Kyle Efaw.