Dec 16, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski (11) kicks a field goal during the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 15-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders Special Teams: What They Had, What They Have, and What They Need


Special teams are units that are on the field during kicking plays. While many players who appear on offensive or defensive squads also play similar roles on special teams (offensive linemen to block, or defensive players to tackle) there are some specialist roles that are unique to the kicking game.

This includes any of several predetermined permutations of the players within a team that play in situations, such as kickoffs and attempts at field goals, where the standard offensive and defensive formations are not appropriate.

This aspect of the game is one third of the total plays that are battled for in every game. Some teams win 35% of their games because of it. In the first three games of the season, it can make or break you.

This has been the Oakland Raiders strength since the year 2000. They were able to score from about anywhere on the planet, as well as flip a bad field position into a positive play.

Let’s look at what the Raiders had, what they have, and what they need.

What they had:

Batman and Robin, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson, Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, Bert & Ernie, Hawkeye Pierce & B.J. Hunnicutt.

They all had each other, supported each other in good times and bad, and will miss each other starting in the 2013 season.

The Oakland Raiders had the football version of the ZZ Top song Legs: Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler.

Lechler’s numbers as a Raider:

7× Pro Bowl (2001, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009,2010, 2011)

9× All-Pro (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007,2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)

NFL 2000s All-Decade Team

Raiders record for longest punt (80 yards, 2011)

Career NFL Stats as of 2012

Punts 1,015

Punting Yards 48,215

Average Punt 47.5

Oct 16, 2011; Oakland CA, USA;Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler (9) punts the ball during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at the O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Cleveland Browns 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

On February 18, 2009 he signed a four-year $12 million contract, making him the highest paid punter in NFL history.

Until the 2012 season, Lechler had gone his entire career without a blocked punt.

Arguably one of the greatest punters of all time (Don’t tell Ray Guy), Lechler was the best and most efficient punter of the last decade.

Where is he now— with the Houston Texans.

Why was he was not brought back——– Salary cap, and reasons that we’ll never know.

——-

Sebastian Janikowski has seen plenty of changes on the Raiders in his 13 years in the NFL.

He has played for eight head coaches, seven special teams coordinators and with countless teammates since entering the NFL in 2000 as the first kicker taken in the first round of the draft in 21 years.

By the numbers:

Field Goals made 324 (#19 lifetime)

Field goals Attempted 402

Field goals % 80.6

Longest field goal 63 yards

Points scored 1,389 (#24 lifetime)

He is currently ranked 41st all-time in field goal accuracy at 79.31%, behind the leader Nate Kaeding, at 86.5%,

Janikowksi was named the starting kicker for the 2012 AFC Pro Bowl team on December 27, 2011. In that game, he hit a Pro Bowl record eight extra points and a field goal in the 59-41 AFC victory

Janikowski comes into the 2013 season healthy, happy and ready to kick some bombs from outside the stadium, outside the time zone and maybe outside the galaxy.

What they have:

Kicker that can score from any continent on the planet

Long snapper in Nick Guess who played early last season after regular long-snapper Jon Condo suffered a concussion, and backup long-snapper Travis Goethel showed that he wasn’t ready for game action.

Punter: General manager Reggie McKenzie brought in the young kid with the booming leg, Marquette King, last season. McKenzie must’ve been big on King, because he kept him on injured reserve when Lechler was still the man in Oakland, which is pretty impressive for King since punters are among the most recycled players in the NFL.

McKenzie also brought in veteran punter Chris Kluwe in the offseason to compete against King for the starting punting job.

Kluwe has never put up eye-popping numbers during his eight years as the Minnesota Vikings punter. Over the last three seasons, Kluwe has never been near the top of the league in any punting statistic. He ranked 22nd in the NFL with an average of 45 yards per punt and 17th in net average with a number of just 39.7 last year.

Return man: The Raiders have one of the fastest players in the NFL who has return experience. No better place to take the wind out of your opponents’ sail than a quick score on a kick-off return or a punt return.

May 15, 2012; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders receiver Jacoby Ford (12) at organized team activities at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Ford has super human speed (a 4.2 40-time) and a wealth of knowledge of the return game. His game experience at Clemson University and his early successful tenure with the Raiders would make him a “priority” candidate to shine at this position.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that he returned a 94 yard kick-off return against the Chiefs and a 101 yard return against the Dolphins.

He holds the most kick-off returns for touchdowns in franchise history with four.  Hopefully he is healthy enough to return and be a positive influence at receiver.

What’s scary is McKenzie’s Raiders hold a trump card in the position of return man: Josh Cribbs is currently one of the best and dangerous in the league. With the Browns, Cribb’s return results earned him his third Pro Bowl and first since 2009. Cribbs by himself dwarfed the Raiders total team return stats in 2012.

Cribbs brings with him a resume of 11 career returns for TD’s, including eight on kick-offs and three on punts. He will make an immediate impact on the Raiders return game IF he can stay healthy

Between Cribbs and Ford, the Raiders would have the best tandem or returners in the division and possibly the NFL

What they need:

By the numbers it shows a solid punter is what the Raiders need. If that position can be solidified in training camp and produce starting in game one, then the void that Shane Lechler left will be filled.

The kicker, snapper, return men all look to be a positive move for Reggie’s Raiders for the 2013 season.

Should the Raiders Have Kept Shane Lechler?

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Tags: Oakland Raiders