NOTE: I've been getting questions all preseason about where Scott Simonson stands on the depth chart and what he needs to do moving forward, so I decided to go ahead and break it down as simply I could. Below is what Simonson needs to do in order to raise his stock, as well as where I have him on my current Raiders' tight end depth chart. As I reported earlier, Simonson is expected to play late third quarter and the entire fourth at both tight end and on special teams in tonight's preseason game versus the Vikings.
Simonson has been questioned about whether he can block at this level ever since he came out of Assumption College (D2). He showed sparks that he can during the Medal of Honor Bowl, after pancaking a defensive end from TCU on his first play, but tonight will be his first true test. Where's his hand placement on blocks? How’s his base looking when he engages? And more importantly, can he simply block bigger guys? Simonson is well aware of this, and I wouldn’t be surprise if the Raiders have him doing more blocking than route running his first couple series in.
IMPACT ON SPECIAL TEAMS
If blocking at tight end is the number one thing Simonson will have to demonstrate tonight, then special teams is a close second. When you consider the fact that from now until Aug. 31, 37 players will be cut from the Raiders' 53-man roster, having an impact on special teams is a must if you're a player on the fence. It’s not necessarily about making a big flashy play that fans will remember but rather doing his assignment so perfect that when coaches go back to evaluate the film that it’s hard for the special teams coordinator not to protect him if the team is on the verge of cutting him. Just look at last night's Chiefs - Bengals game. Just imagine what the special teams coordinator is saying to his punt coverage team in their meetings today. In most cases, if you can’t bring something else to the table other than the true position you play, they’ll find someone else who can.
DO WHAT HE DOES BEST
Simonson has proved dating back to rookie mini-camp that he has sure hands. With the on going battle at tight end, any opportunity to make a play will be important, but drop passes are just unacceptable. In addition, any opportunities to shine in the redzone is huge. The tight end position has evolved in NFL and Simonson has a chance to tonight to show he's a player you can throw it up top to and he'll come down with it. There's a lot of elements of the game that can be taught, but having the size and strength to rip down passes at 6'5 is something that coaches can't teach. If he wants to raise some eyebrows, this is how it's going to get done.
Heading into tonight’s game, I have Simonson battling to make the practice squad. I’ve projected him to make practice squad because I definitely believe he can be an asset to this team, similar to what Brian Leonhardt – a Division II tight end from Bemidji State, MN – did last season. Unfortunately, even with a dominant performance, it comes down to what are the other guys doing. With that being said, Mychal Rivera is a lock and Nick Kasa looks to in there as well. In order for Simonson to make the 53-man roster, the team will have to be willing to hold four tight ends and for him to emerge in these preseason games to leapfrog David Ausberry.
MY CURRENT RAIDERS’ TIGHT END RANKINGS
(1) Mychal Rivera
(2) Nick Kasa
(3) Brian Leonhardt
(4) David Ausberry
(5) Scott Simonson
(6) Jake Murphy
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