Is Mychal Rivera ready to take the lead at tight end this year?

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As news broke earlier this week that tight end David Ausberry had undergone surgery to repair a knee injury, Raider Nation wonders how big of an impact his absence will make. All eyes shift to Mychal Rivera who is entering his second season with the Oakland Raiders. Rivera talked about the competition that had been present between he and Ausberry.

He talked about the daily competition to get reps and said, “That’s what the NFL’s about. The NFL’s about competition. The competition that me and Ausberry are having, that’s part of the reason why I’m doing good right now. Competition brings out the best in everybody.”

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson remarked that Rivera returned this season with more swagger. When Rivera was asked about this and how he’d spent his offseason preparing for the Raiders, Rivera said, “I worked out every day and I kept my mind on football every day. I used the 4-12 season as a motivating factor. I want to win in this league, that’s a goal of mine. I want to win in this league and I want to be one of the best tight ends in this league, and I see that that’s attainable. I can get that.”

Head coach Dennis Allen has talked about how Rivera just has a feel for the passing game. Rivera responded to this comment by saying that even “dating back to my school days, I just love catching the ball. I have a knack for when the ball’s in the air, go to the ball, and when there are guys around you, you just find that empty little space. You don’t need much of an empty space to get two hands on the ball. So that’s how I put it.”

Rivera also talked about the process of becoming a better blocker and how it’s a process that is challenging. He talked about how he feels that he needs to keep up his technique and that being a better blocker is all about technique and leverage as well as knowing how the defense is going to move, where they are going to go and just making sure to get there before they do. When asked how much of blocking is just knowing where to be and how much of blocking is actual desire, Rivera said, “You know, I’d say 50/50. 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. If you know what you’re doing and you got the heart to do it, you can block anybody.

And what does Rivera think about having Matt Schaub on the Raiders’ roster? He said that he had a pretty big smile on his face when Schaub was signed. The first thing that Rivera did was look up how many tight ends Schaub had thrown to and how many times and he said, “The sky’s the limit with this offense.” Rivera recognizes the importance to get a chemistry going with Schaub and to achieve it early. Rivera said, “For the past couple of weeks he’s been grabbing us after practice, running routes, just trying to get better at our chemistry. I just can’t wait to see what Matt does with us and the tight ends.”

While I’m sure that Raider Nation was looking forward to seeing the competition between Ausberry and Rivera throughout training camp, it sounds like Rivera is more than ready to step up into a lead role for the Raiders. Rivera finished his first season with 38 receptions totaling 407 yards along with four touchdowns. Raider Nation will be happy to hear that Rivera is all in and he has this to say to the diehard fan base, “They have a hard worker that wants to help out the team as much as possible and a guy that loves to win.”