Position group analysis: Special teams


Last in a series analyzing Raiders position groups with free agency underway and Oakland appearing to stay out of the first wave:

Key players: P Shane Lechler, PK Sebastian Janikowski, LS Jon Condo, KR Gary Russell,KR Jonathan Holland, KR Nick Miller, PR Johnnie Lee HIggins, LB Isaiah Ekejiuba, S Mike Mitchell, S Tyvon Branch, LB Jon Alston, LB Ricky Brown, S Hiram Eugene, TE Brandon Myers.

Review: Jekyll and Hyde. The best kicking game in the NFL and one of the worst at returning kicks. The Raiders put three special teams players in the Pro Bowl _ Lechler, Janikowski and Condo _ and ended up ranked only 13th in rankings compiled by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. Gosselin’s rankings are a must-read for every special teams coach in the league and are considered the beat barometer of which team is excelling in that area.

On the plus side, Lechler’s 51.1 net punting average is an all-time record and Janikowski didn’t miss a kick inside 45 yards. If Condo has made a bad snap in three years, I don’t remember it. The Raiders forced a league-high five turnovers on special teams, including a strip-recovery against Cincinnati on a kick return that helped win the game.

On the other hand, the Raiders averaged 18.2 yards per kickoff return and their average starting point (22.8 yard line) was also the worst. Oakland averaged 4.9 yards per punt return, at least managing to be better than the 49ers, who were dead last at 4.4.

Contract status: Most teams pay lip service to the importance of special teams, the Raiders say it with their checkbook. Lechler and Janikowski are the highest paid players ever at their specialties. Ekejiuba is the highest paid pure special teams player who doesn’t return kicks. Jaws dropped throughout the league when the Raiders put a second-round tender on Condo. All told, they’ll put out more than $7.7 million in salary alone for those four players this year. (Earlier, I wrote $7.1, but shortchanged Lechler $600,000 in salary).

Oakland also put a second-round tender on Ricky Brown, a prominent special teamer. Alston and Russell are unrestricted free agents who weren’t given qualifying offers.

What’s next: The Raiders must have kept Miller around for a reason after a broken tibia prior to the opener ended up derailing his rookie season. It wasn’t until the season finale Miller went on injured reserve, while the Raiders struggled on kickoff returns with Holland and Russell. If Miller isn’t what they hoped, they need a new, fresh, fast face which could be provided by the draft.

It’s a big year for Higgins, who was a dangerous punt return specialist in 2009 but averaged only 5.2 with a long of 19 in 2010. Higgins was leveled in the opener by San Diego’s Eric Weddle and although he said he was fine, appeared to be tentative until very late in the season.

With explosive athletes such as Branch and Mitchell around, the Raiders should be consistently one of the best coverage teams but somehow gave up 25.7 yards per return _ 32nd in the league. That’s on special teams coach Jon Fassel and assistant Aaron Pelch, the latter who left the staff recently to become head coach at Millsaps College.

The Raiders were better in returns and coverage under Brian Schneider, who joined Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks after a year at USC.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Don’t hate me guys….it was a slow day, and if just for a minute or two, at least I got your heart going!

  • buckeyeraider

    If Al is going to throw money around like that on a free agent, I’d rather it be Boldin’s teammate Karlos Dansby.
    I Kinda like our young receiving corps.

  • raideredoutL.A.

    damn that came out wrong.

  • DKnight007

    there is no trade….

  • lefty12

    Dakota is always joking around.Remember the time he told everyone about all those 80 yard TD runs we’d get if we drafted some skinny legged RB from Arkansas.He has a great sense of humor.

  • raideredoutL.A,

    Yes, the Bobcats own us….we only beat them when Wallace is injured…is he playing?

  • raideredoutL.A.

    5bills for 3bills on lakers win straight up?

  • raideredoutL.A.

    wallace is playing.

  • Ben was at a night club called “The Velvet Elvis.”—– tmz.com

    I schyit you not.

    Check out the pic tmz has..http://www.tmz.com/


  • raideredoutL.A.

    i dont think i’m going to do it.

  • Have a nice weekend guys!

    Who knows, maybe we will trade for Boldin…

  • raideredoutL.A.

    we don’t need boldin

  • SteveAlford21

    Trade DHB for Boldin’s nephew that’s a little slow, but kinda looks like him.

  • KingDan

    Now that they we resigned Barnes I feel much better.

  • buckeyeraider

    I’ve been on the draft McClain at 8 bandwagon for awhile now. But now I’m having second thoughts. I Know eight is high for a guard, but I’m liking the thought of plugging that nasty bastard Iupati from Idaho next to Satele and opening some running lanes for Bush, McFadden and Co.
    Hopefully the MLB’s slide to Rd 2 like Rey and Laurenitis did last year.

  • Thec07

    PFT says 3 teams talking to cards about boldin
    KC, NE, Balt…..

    If he doesnt come here ship him to Balt. Dont want him in KC, and Fugg NE…better yet Fugg all 3….

  • Thec07

    Last year clearly was the best draft for LB’s….
    4 went from USC…

  • RaiderRockstar

    Raiders & Seymour working on long-term deal


  • Thec07

    New Post

  • RaiderRockstar

    new post!

  • RaiderDebo

    Roethlisberger’s rep denies wrongdoing
    Posted by Gregg Rosenthal on March 5, 2010 4:58 PM ET
    Ben Roethlisberger is in the news once again for a sexual assault accusation.

    And once again, he is denying any wrongdoing.

    Roethlisberger’s representatives have denied the allegations involved in TMZ’s report after being contacted by PFT Friday.

    They did not comment as to whether Roethlisberger was in fact accused of sexual assault, just that the allegations were untrue and the events in question did not happen.

    TMZ reported that Roethlisberger is accused of sexual assault.

    The Milledgeville, Georgia Police Dept. has confirmed they are investigating a sexual assault that took place Friday, but would not revealed the name of the accused.

    UPDATE: Brooks from Sports By Brooks reports Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon was with Roethlisberger Friday night. Colon is not accused of any wrongdoing.

    UPDATE II: There are conflicting reports as to whether Roethlisberger has been interviewed by police. Roethlisberger owns a home on Lake Oconee, Georgia.

  • Nnamdi21

    Bo Schembechler Jackson Says:
    March 5th, 2010 at 11:28 am
    principal must be a liberal


    RRS, the pricipal was not involved in picking the black role models. Read the article. Or are you like most neocons who have no need for facts when forming outrageous opinions


    lmao! EXACTLY.

  • souldogdave

    Dakota, you are such a hoser for posting false info. Don’t you have anything better to do? Go hang out with richochet or something.

  • djohnnyg

    Raiders & Seymour working on long-term deal


    Who f’ing cares?

  • djohnnyg

    Yeah, let’s make sure we keep all those players who gave us 5-11 last year. Makes so much sense.

    I can’t wait to see an NFL record low attendance of 9,000 fans at the Coliseum next year becaue of the worthless team Al Davis is putting together.

    This is so pathetic.

  • RaiderResurrection

    To Djohnnyg:

    I feel you bro. I’m sad about our team’s demise also.
    Hopefully we start on the up trend soon