2017 Oakland Raiders Tight Ends: Figuring Out Their Roles

Raiders TE Clive Walford
Jan 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Clive Walford (88) in action against the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Familiarize yourself with the numbers 12 and 22. Chances are you’ll see them often when it comes to the Oakland Raiders formations on offense.


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Let’s break it down: 12 personnel are when a team deploys one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. 22 are when two running backs, two tight ends and a receiver are on the field. The Raiders have deployed the 12 variety this past season and the one before that. And with Marshawn Lynch in the fold and a slew of youngsters behind him, 22 is a possibility, too.

How’s this relevant? Take a quick peek at the Raiders’ depth at tight end (in no particular order): Jared Cook, Clive Walford, Lee Smith, Gabe Holmes and Cooper Helfet. No doubt that list pares down to a maximum of three when off and preseason activities conclude.

There shouldn’t be any suspense to the three that make the 53-man roster. The question is which two will be active on the gameday 46 squad. While there may be interesting battles in camp — and surprise resurgence by one of those involved, the tight end pecking order should play out like this: 1A Smith; 1B Cook; 2 Walford.

Wait, a pure-blocking, non-receiver atop the tight end depth chart? Yes, you read that right. Despite the aerial showcase put forth by Derek Carr and his cast of receivers, the Raiders offense is predicated on mauling smashmouth football. Amongst tight ends, there’s no one meaner and nastier on the field than Smith. Amongst the stable, no one can touch Smith’s blocking prowess.

In terms of catching , Cook, despite his documented inconsistency is head-and-shoulders the best option. None of the other tight ends can beat him in a race and he’s got postseason experience with another heralded gunslinger, Aaron Rodgers. That leaves us with Walford.

In a perfect world, he fit the do-it-all role. The  former third rounder looked sluggish while recovering from an ATV accident.All’s not lost for Walford. He’s still young (26 in October) and a strong string of camps could vault him higher on the depth chart. Factor in injuries shelving both Cook (six regular-season games) and Smith (IR) last season and Walford could see decent action.

With that said, the combo of Smith and Cook are the best options as the mauler and rock catcher at tight end.


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