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Latavius Murray’s 90-yard touchdown run against the Kansas City Chiefs was memorable for several reasons.
The Raiders running back showed great acceleration, with the instincts to slash through a cutback lane. Don’t forget the breakaway speed.
You probably didn’t see tight end Mychal Rivera cut across the formation a seal a rushing lane that wouldn’t have been open without his excellent block.
Murray wouldn’t have been able to bounce his first touchdown outside, with an angle toward the end zone, without Rivera’s block along the right edge.
Those efforts don’t show up in Rivera’s final line, but they hold as much value as any touchdown catch.
“It takes several unselfish actions to produce a big moments,” Rivera said. "I was really happy to have helped on those touchdown runs. … It feels good when you make plays like that.”
Rivera is known as a receiving tight end. Right now, that’s a fair characterization. The second-year pro is working to better that reputation. He’s determined to be a three-down player, competent in every aspect of his multi-faceted position.
Rivera's confident in his ability, but he knows he's a work in progress
“He’s getting better, but he still has a ways to go,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He’d be the first guy to tell you that. The experience has been good. The volume of snaps he’s taken in two years is a positive. He’s developing as an all-around player and, as he develops over the years he’ll become a more functional tight end for the Raiders.
“He has a great work ethic, and he’s an intelligent player. With the way he works and the way he prepares, it’s clear that he’s a guy who is very driven and very hungry.”
Rivera has been a good receiver early in his career, especially in the middle of the field and in the red zone. He has solid hands and is a good route-runner, traits that have come naturally.
Rivera, however, has had to work to fill other roles Olson asks of a tight end. While Brian Leonhardt is the primary blocking tight end, Rivera is required to be an in-line blocker in the run game and occasionally on passing downs. He plays some fullback/H-back as well. He’s often a man in motion. He must know protections in addition to receiving routes, and must make reads and adjustments accordingly.
“You have to come in each day and work at it,” Rivera said. “It’s not something you can just get good at and move on. Every day you have to come in and work your tail off to be a good blocker in this system. You have to stay in a good rhythm.”
The Raiders see that happening, and want him to continue to develop in all facets. He is, after all, considered a foundation piece of the new-look Raiders.
“You’ve got to have a guy that’s willing to do that,” interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “Right now, in college, when you’re looking at some of the tight ends, they come out either as a blocker or purely a receiver. You’ve got to take a player and, one way or another, make them something he hasn’t been and teach him that.
“That’s always a position of development and Mychal is developing at a good pace right now. Mychal would tell you there’s things footwork-wise and fundamentally that he needs to get better at and continue to get better at, but he works pretty hard at it.”