Raiders TE Battle: Austin Hooper or Michael Mayer for TE1?

Raiders TE Stock Watch: Austin Hooper Has A Ho-Hum Debut

With Darren Waller being shipped to New York, the Las Vegas Raiders needed a replacement at tight end. Dave Ziegler, the team’s general manager, brought in two-time Pro Bowler Austin Hooper on a one-year deal. On Saturday evening, Raider Nation finally got its first look at Hooper in silver and black during a game.

The veteran tight end received ample playing time in the first half against the Los Angeles Rams, but his performance left a lot to be desired. Vegas ultimately won the game 34-17, but our focus here is on Hooper as we assess his current standing on the team’s depth chart.

Could rookie Michael Mayer push for TE1 duties early in the regular season?

Austin Hooper Makes His Raiders Debut

The biggest positive for Hooper was simply getting out there and getting his feet wet. He played a decent amount in the first half but split time with the rookie Mayer; also, it was against backups for the Rams, so there was not much to analyze from an X’s and O’s standpoint. While Hooper did not record a catch, he did demonstrate some solid blocking. He moved around well and looked strong when engaging with his assignment.

Again, there was not much to see, but he certainly didn’t look bad; unspectacular, if anything.

Hooper Posts Ho-Hum Debut

The primary negative of Hooper’s performance is he dropped his only target of the game. To be fair, it was not a great ball from Brian Hoyer. Nevertheless, Hooper had two hands on it, which means he has to catch it. Criticizing one play might seem unfair, but Hooper is clearly in competition with Mayer – this makes the margin for error slim.

Mayer, for what it’s worth, caught the only target that made it to him for three yards. Hoyer’s rough night played a part in this lack of production by the Raiders tight-end group, but Hooper did not help himself out with the drop.

You can find my Week 2 analysis on Michael Mayer, here.

The Bottom Line

Hooper’s debut with the Raiders was a mixed bag, to say the least. Given that it was in limited action with a mix of starters and backups on both sides, one lackluster performance should not be a death sentence to the veteran. However, the stakes might be higher than we realize.

Mayer is clearly breathing down his neck. Right now, the only things holding him off are Hooper’s superior blocking and experience. How long will those advantages last, though? Austin Hooper must step up if he wants to hold onto the starting gig. Otherwise, he could be passed up by a rookie, just like Hoyer is in danger of.

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