NAPA — The competition at tight end during Raiders training camp has taken an interesting turn of late with four-year veteran Jeron Mastrud getting work with the first team.
Mastrud, 25, played in 35 games over the past three seasons with the Miami Dolphins with five starts, giving him more NFL experience than any tight end on the roster.
Considering the Raiders want to be a power running team, one of Mastrud's strengths fits in nicely.
"I think he brings us a pretty good presence as an in-line blocker," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "That's one of the things we want to look at with him."
For what it's worth, the Raiders depth chart lists Mastrud (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) as No. 4 behind Richard
Gordon, David Ausberry and Mychal Rivera and ahead of Nick Kasa and Brian Leonhardt.
But the Raiders are still determining what the best mix of players will be and Allen keeps hoping someone will step forward and play a leading role, much as Brandon Myers did last season when he caught a team-high 79 passes.
Mastrud liked the opportunity of playing for the Raiders because he had familiarity with line coach and assistant head coach Tony Sparano, who was his head coach with the Dolphins, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson, with whom Mastrud spent one training camp as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State.
"It was a place that was really going through a process of change, of rebuilding," Mastrud said. "It's good to be part of a new look, something building for the future. I think we've got a good thing going here."
Mastrud was primarily a blocker in double-tight end sets for Miami, catching one pass for eight yards in 35 games. He has shown to be a capable receiver in camp, roughly along the lines of Gordon, who is also a punishing blocker.
Yet Mastrud resists being typecast as a blocking-only tight end.
"I take pride in (blocking) because it's something a tight end has to do, I feel like it can't be just receiving or just blocking," Mastrud said. "We all need to be multiple as a group because that's what makes your offense versatile, guys that can do a lot of things, it would be hard to stop."
Ausberry, a converted wide receiver, has grown into the tight end position and may have the most potential as a combination player who can both block and catch.
Both Ausberry and Gordon were on the roster last season, competing with Myers in the preseason, but neither was much of a factor in the passing offense.
Rivera, at 243 pounds, has been complimented by Allen for his blocking, but does his best work as a pass receiver and the Raiders have some wrinkles in their offense that play to his strengths.
He may be on the most secure ground of any player on the roster at his position.
Kasa, who played defensive end until his senior year at Colorado, is an intriguing project who missed virtually the entire offseason with a hamstring strain.