Updated December 6, 2023 - 7:09 pm
Raiders tight end Michael Mayer never doubted his ability to block at the NFL level, even though he was known as more of a receiver coming out of Notre Dame.
But the rookie second-round pick did hear the haters after he missed a few assignments in the preseason.
“Yeah, there were some people were saying stuff about that,” he said.
Mayer knew he had to get better, especially on a team with a star running back like Josh Jacobs.
Mayer responded by going to work. The results are paying off. He has improved as a blocker by leaps and bounds, best evidenced by taking out two defenders on Jacobs’ 63-yard touchdown run against the Chiefs on Nov. 26.
“We work on those combo blocks all the time and we needed to hit one like that,” Mayer said. “Hopefully we get another one this week and I think that felt good for the entire offense.”
The Raiders returned to practice Wednesday after a bye week. They’re set to host the Vikings at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
Mayer, who has 22 catches and a touchdown this season, hopes to continue to showcase his improvement as a blocker.
“I’m 10-times better than I was in camp,” Mayer said. “And just like anything, there’s a confidence element. If I go out there thinking this guy is going to beat my ass, then it’s probably going to happen. When I go out there knowing what I’m doing, knowing my technique and the proper steps, being confident in who you’re supposed to get, you have a better chance of success.”
His hard work has been noticed by the coaching staff. Interim coach Antonio Pierce said Mayer had a “hell of a block” on Jacobs’ touchdown.
“Let’s be honest, he got baptized in training camp,” Pierce said. “He was probably embarrassed. Humble pie. But now he’s dishing it out too. You can see the confidence. You see ‘Big Mike’ walking around with his shoulders out, has a little swag to him. It’s good to see. Sometimes you see rookies hit that rookie wall late in the season. He’s doing (the) opposite. He’s rising.”
Mayer credits his position coaches at Notre Dame, John McNulty and Gerad Parker, for instilling the fundamentals in him.
Now, he is starting to turn the corner in the NFL.
Raiders tight end coach Jerry Schuplinski said Mayer deserves praise for the work he’s done.
“He’s done a nice job in that and I would say a lot of credit goes to him,” Schuplinski said. “He’s worked really hard on it, not just during practice, but extra work before and after practice. Hand placement, head placement, body control, everything. He’s done a nice job in all those areas. If you watch him throughout the year, it’s not always perfect. But he’s always had the will to do it, which is a big part of it.
Defensive end Maxx Crosby and offensive tackle Kolton Miller both missed Wednesday’s practice as they continue to heal from injuries.
Crosby has played through a knee issue for several weeks. He was hospitalized two days before the Chiefs game due to an infection in his knee. He was listed as doubtful, but managed to play. Crosby even recorded a sack. Miller missed two games with a shoulder injury before returning to play 91 percent of the offensive snaps against Kansas City.
“You’re talking about one of the best left tackles in the league,” Pierce said of Miller. “When he’s there, we’re a better team and we’ll see where that goes day-by-day.”
The bye came at a good time as the rest of the team appears healthy going into the stretch run.
Cornerback Brandon Facyson (shin) and linebacker Kana’i Mauga (knee) were the only other players on the injury report.
Both were listed as limited participants.
Facyson and Mauga are both on injured reserve and had their 21-day practice window opened by the team. Facyson has been out since training camp, while Mauga was injured against the Bears on Oct. 22.