Back in 2007 during Boss’ rookie season with the %%MATCH_5%%, %%MATCH_1%% broke his left leg late in the season. That pressed the team’s fifth-round draft pick into the spotlight.
The results were better than anyone had hoped for.
New York’s offense kept moving along without a hitch, the Giants stunned the NFL by beating previously undefeated New England in Super Bowl XLII and Boss earned himself a championship ring.
Can history repeat itself in Oakland?
Stranger things have happened, but the Raiders certainly feel a lot better about things after losing mainstay %%MATCH_2%% to the %%MATCH_4%% in what was a surprising move that caught much of the team completely off guard.
“We’re getting a guy that has played in lot of big football games, guy that is coming here with the commitment that we all have and we all share, which is trying to win a championship,” Oakland head coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s going to be part of the glue that helps get us there. The guy can really catch the football, he’s really athletic. He’s tall, he’s strong and he knows what it takes to play this game.”
Boss signed a $16 million, four-year contract with the Raiders after spending his first four seasons with the Giants. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder, who played in college at little-known Western %%MATCH_6%%, has 119 receptions for 1,600 yards in his career but stands out because of his knack for scoring.
Boss’ 18 career touchdowns are six more than Miller had during his four years in Oakland, which is critical for an offense that has struggled in the red zone over the past half-decade or so.
“Oh God, just throw it up there and let him go catch it,” Jackson beamed. “Every now and then just toss the ball up there and Boss will catch it. I haven’t been around many guys that tall at tight end. Not only is he tall, he can really catch the ball. I’m going to see more as we go, but this guy has it.
“That’s why we put him on this team. The guy has skills and we’re going to make sure we showcase those skills.”
Jackson firmly believed the Raiders were going to be able to re-sign Miller, to the point where he talked almost glowingly about the prospects of getting a deal done with the team’s leader in receptions last year.
When that didn’t happen, Jackson reversed field and quickly focused his attention on the one player he thought could replace Miller as one of the main cogs in Oakland’s passing game.
It didn’t take long for Jackson to convince Boss of his vision.
“The moment I met Coach Jackson I could just feel his energy and it was just exciting for me,” said the former New York Giant. “Within moments of meeting him I felt on board with his ideas, his passion for the game. His energy is exciting to be around and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it now.”
Miller’s departure was both stunning and unexpected. He had been in talks with the team about a new deal and received one offer from the Raiders, but the two sides could never come to an agreement.
Miller, who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl this last year after being selected as an alternate, reunited with his Oakland teammate %%MATCH_0%%, who also signed with the Seahawks, as well as former Raiders head coach %%MATCH_3%%.
In a move that dripped with irony, Miller said Cable was very instrumental in getting him to sign with Seattle.
Still, it wasn’t a decision Miller made easily.
“For me and my wife it wasn’t about the money,” who inked a five-year, $34 million deal that includes $17 million in guaranteed money. “Going into my last year I was open to an extension (from the Raiders) and it didn’t happen. Then after the season I thought we had a deal done before the lockout, then that didn’t happen. Then nothing happened. Seattle came and really made me a priority.”
The Raiders had backed themselves into a financial corner before the lockout by giving out fat new contracts to players like %%MATCH_11%%, %%MATCH_13%%, %%MATCH_14%% and %%MATCH_7%%.
With most of its money tied up in those deals, Oakland went into free agency without much wriggle room. The Raiders eventually had to restructure most of those deals to get under the salary cap, then had enough room left to sign Boss.
Oakland has drafted a pair of tight ends last April – %%MATCH_8%% and %%MATCH_16%% – and both made strong impressions early in training camp. Ausberry, who would have been the team’s most talked about rookie were it not for wide receiver %%MATCH_10%%, scored a touchdown in the Raiders’ preseason-opening loss to the %%MATCH_17%% Cardinals on a pass from backup quarterback %%MATCH_12%%.
Brandon Myers, a holdover from a year ago, and %%MATCH_15%% are also on the roster for now.
“We’ve got to keep working,” said quarterback %%MATCH_9%%. “I’m definitely throwing a lot of balls to them, just trying to build that chemistry.”
Boss, however, is the unquestioned starter.
Campbell got a good look at Boss when the two played against one another in the NFC East, Boss with the Giants and Campbell with the Redskins. While they were never on the field together, Campbell gained an early admiration for what the young tight end is capable of.
Jackson also appreciates what Boss has done in the past but believes the surface has only been scratched with the veteran tight end.
“My conversation with him at dinner the other night is that I needed a guy that wants to help get us to where we want to go,” Jackson said. “If he has a skill I’m going to highlight and showcase his talent and skill, just like we do with all our players. I’m not going to put him in a box and say you gotta do this and you gotta do that. There are quite a few things in our offensive system that a young man needs to do and he showed those characteristics on video tape.