The dreaded Oakland Raiders make their yearly appearance in Denver this Sunday to open up the Broncos Division rivalry. Once again, I will break down the Special Teams aspect of our weekly opponent. This year’s Oakland Raiders Special Teams Unit is a bit like their uniforms; a little Silver and a little Black.
Football Outsiders rates the Raiders Special Teams 31st overall in the NFL. By the same token, they have the Broncos at 16th overall. Pro Football Focus says the Raiders have the 20th ranked ST’s Unit and the Broncos at 3rd after 3 Weeks have elapsed in the 2012 season, for whatever that’s worth.
The AFC West Division might just be able to boast that it has the best kicking game in the league. I happen to think so. The Oakland Raiders certainly have two of the better Kicker/Punter combos. That is the Silver I referred to earlier.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski has one of the strongest legs in the NFL with regards to placekickers. In last season’s opener at Mile High, I was witness to him tying the Field Goal record that was held by Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam and now David Akers at 63-yards. "Sea-Bass" has enough leg that we shouldn’t see a single Kick return on Sunday unless it is a squib kick near the end of the half or the end of the game. For the season, Janikowski is 6-for-6 on Field Goal Attempts with his longest of the young season being a 51-yarder. He has also made all 5 Extra Point attempts. Of hois 14 Kickoffs, 7 went for touchbacks and 6 were returned for a 20.0 yard average.
Punter/Holder Shane Lechler is usually among the league’s leaders in many categories. He has punted 14 times so far this year, with a 49.4 average. A number that puts him two spots below Broncos punter Britton Colquitt at 12th. Shane has placed two of those Inside the 20 yard line, one has gone for a touchback, 3 have been Fair Caught and one has been blocked. This is where the Black comes in. Although his longest punt this season is a 62-yarder, the coverage unit has allowed a whopping 12.5 return average on 10 of Lechler’s punts, driving his Net average down to 36.4. Shane’s career numbers are 47.6 gross and 39.0 net yard averages.
Jon Condo is their Long Snapping Specialist. The 6-3, 245 lb., 6th round player out of Maryland is one of the higher paid Snapper in the league at $1,283,333. Jon was a Dallas Cowboy (2005) and a New England Patriot (2006) before joining the Raiders practice squad, Nov. 30, 2006. He has been Oakland's Long Snapper since the 2007 season, spanning 83 games. His stats include 32 Special Teams Tackles with a high of 10 in 2009. Condo has also Forced one Fumble and Recovered one. The Raiders have had troubles recently when Condo suffered a concussion a few weeks ago. They showed the league just how valuable a Long Snapper is when his replacement botched a couple of snaps and probably cost them the game.
The top Coverage guys for the Raiders are #82 Tight End Richard Gordon (3 TKL), #27 Safety Matt Giordano (2 TKL, 1 Miss), #28 Cornerback Phillip Adams (2 TKL) and #22 Running Back Taiwan Jones (2 TKL). Adams has graded out the best thus far after 3 weeks.
Philip Adams has done the Punt Return duties for the Raiders this season. He has called for a fair Catch 3 times in 10 dropbacks, returning 7 for an 11.1 yard average, including a career long of 47 yards.
The Kick Returners for Oakland so far this season have been Mike Goodson (3 Returns for a 30.7 average and a long of 51), Marcel Reece (1 Ret, 36 yds), Coye Francies (1 for 13 yds) and Taiwan Jones (1 for 6 yds). It’s safe to say that Goodson is the primary kick returner here. In aggregate, they have returned 6 kickoffs an average of 24.5 yards.
I really think Special Teams will be a huge factor in this week’s game. With the return of Long Snapper Jon Condo, the Raiders aren’t likely to have any botched snaps. It also means there isn’t likely to be another blocked punt. But the fact remains that Oakland has had issues with their coverage Units, so maybe Broncos punt returner Jim Leonhard can break off a long one and help the Field position battle come Sunday.
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