Overall Grade: C+
Shane Lechler continues to prove why he's the best overall punter in the league. He isn't the best directional punter, but his length on his kicks makes him stand out. He can totally alter field position single handily.
Sebastian Janikowski was excellent this season. Did he deserve a $16 million contract? Probably not, but that's another story. Janikowski was 20-21 from 20 yards to 49 yards. That's pretty impressive. Janikowski is the leagues strongest leg kicker (sorry Rob Bironas), so that is why Cable can afford to send him out there for a 61 yard field goal.
Kick Returning was the weakest position in 2009 for the Raiders. Louis Rankin, Gary Russell, and Jonathan Holland SUCKED! Really, really sucked. We sucked so much that we averaged two yards less a return than 31 ranked Carolina. This is a spot that needs to be addressed in the draft or free agency.
Punt Returning was extremely disappointing itself. JLH looked like a pansy returning punts. He fair caught at times when pursuers were 10 yards away. It seemed like the hit he took in Week One vs. San Diego had a lasting effect on him. It's a shame, because in 2008 he was dynamic returning punts.
Kick and punt coverage was good overall. Mike Mitchell made a name for himself by making some key tackles. Isiah Ekejuiba and Sam Williams both played well. In facts, Isiah played so well in 2008 that Al Davis made him the highest paid special teams player in the league.
LS Jon Condo played well, even earning his way on to the Pro Bowl roster, albeit as a need player.
That puts our specialists as the highest paid group that only plays a total of 10-20 plays a game.
The Raiders definitely need to pursue a Kick Return specialist like Dexter McCluster, Perish Cox, and Javier Arenas.
Best player in 2009: Sebastian Janikowski
Most potential in 2010: Whoever is returning kicks
This is the third article in my series where I grade the Raiders in a specific categor every day. Here are the first two articles:
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