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Raiders rookie Rivera looking to build off of recent success

The Canadian Press
11/22/2013 7:01:57 PM
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- One of the byproducts of quarterback Matt McGloin's rise to the top of Oakland's depth chart last week was the production of rookie tight end Mychal Rivera.

One of the team's four picks in the sixth round of this year's draft, Rivera had gone mostly unnoticed through the Raiders' first nine games before catching a season-high five passes, including a go-ahead 26-yard touchdown, in a 28-23 win over the Houston Texans.

Rivera called it his moment of arrival in the NFL, though the 6-foot-3, 245-pound former Tennessee star is quick to acknowledge he's still in the infancy of his development.

"You always want to make plays, that's what you come into the game to do," Rivera said Friday. "But you also have to realize those plays come in many ways. Those plays can come in a backside block, a touchdown pass. Those plays can also be just helping out the guy next to you and doing what you need to do. That's what a real playmaker needs to do."

Until last week, the Raiders hadn't gotten many plays at all out of their tight ends. A combination of things has played into it.

Oakland's offensive line has been battered all season and has needed the extra blocking support from the tight ends. Oakland has also used three different starting quarterbacks this year.

At his current pace, Rivera will finish with just 37 receptions -- fewer than half the total made in 2012 by then-Raiders tight end Brandon Myers.

"I think Mychal Rivera's done a nice job," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. "He understands the passing game. Obviously, he's a rookie so he still makes mistake but every week I've seen him continue to get better, so I'm pleased with where he's at."

Still, the drop-off in tight end production is a huge departure from what Oakland is used to getting from that position.

Since 2006, tight ends have led the Raiders in receptions four times, including Myers who caught 79 passes last season before signing with the New York Giants as a free agent in the off-season. When Myers left, it created a void Oakland tried to fill by drafting Rivera and signing veteran Jeron Mastrud.

Mastrud has started seven games this season but has been used primarily as a blocker while Rivera has caught 23 of the 32 passes thrown his way this season.

"I just want to build every week," said Rivera, who has two touchdowns receptions. "Last game I had five catches. I'm going to try to get seven catches this game. You always want to build on what you did last week, and I know I can do better than what I did last week. And next week I'm going to be saying the same thing."

Rivera might be needed a little bit more this week.

Oakland will be without leading wide receiver Denarius Moore, who sat out his third straight practice with a shoulder injury. That leaves the Raiders with just one receiver who has caught more than 10 passes -- Rod Streater, who has 35 receptions.

Without a full complement of receivers, facing a Tennessee team that is 10th in pass defence could be more of a challenge for McGloin.

That's where the tight ends may come into play, as a safety outlet for McGloin if plays break down.

"Really it all depends on the scheme, the play call, who we're playing," Rivera said. "Just like with anything, if coach wants to be pass heavy (with) a lot of routes, we'd be able to do that. Whatever the scheme is I go with and do the best that I can."

Notes: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor (knee) remains limited and is questionable. ... Injured running back Darren McFadden, defensive end Jason Hunter and safety Tyvon Branch have all been declared out. ... WR Andre Holmes, who missed the first four games of the season serving an NFL suspension for PEDs, will start in Moore's absence.

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