Oakland Raiders Training Camp Focus: The Special Teams
The special teams unit going to have some new and old parts this year. While the kickers were outstanding, the Raiders were around the bottom of the league in return yards in 2009.
On top of that, special teams standout Isiah Ekejuba was released and needs replacing. It will be interesting to see who will replace him and who will bring back the return game.
One thing is for certain.
There is plenty of speed and physicality to go around in Raider Nation. Some of these guys are already solid back-ups that will make the team while others are depending on special teams as their ticket to stay in Raider Nation.
Turn the page and let's take a look at the special teams
Kicker Swayze Waters
The special teams and actually the whole game starts with the kicker. So we'll start with kicker Swayze Waters because he will not be here long barring an injury to the Raiders number one kicker.
Any attempts he has will likely be to put in on tape for another team.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski is coming off of a career best 89.7 percent of his field goal attempts made. His three misses came from absolutely ridiculous distances.
One of them was a super ridiculous 70 yards.
Who else would even try one from that far?
He also stays among the league leaders in touch-backs on kickoffs.
I'll say no more.
Punter Shane Lechler
Shane Lechler is the other half of the big foot duo.
He is a perennial Pro Bowler so either the Raiders aren't bothering with others in camp or vice-versa.
Not only are these two big footed kickers but at 6'2, 250 and 6'2 225, they are huge men to be a punter and kicker.
The Raiders can actually say, "Our kickers can kick your kicker's butts."
Long-Snaper John Condo
John Condo was a Pro Bowler as a long-snaper last year.
Maybe he and Lechler and keep their form with Janikowski joining then in Hawaii.
That would give the Silver and Black a sweep in special teams batteries.
With Isiah Ekejuba now gone, the Raiders are looking for someone to replace him. It looks as if they have a few guys in that mold who can become a special teams star.
Slade Norris definitely has to be mentioned first.
He is a solid back-up linebacker that has already made an impact on special teams. He surged through the middle of the line to block a punt late in the game against the Chicago Bears last week.
Raider Nation hopes to see more of that from him.
Quentin Groves is very valuable.
He is the perfect DE/OLB hybrid that fits John Marshall's scheme. He has looked explosive coming off of the edge and has looked good as a linebacker as well.
He was a special teams star in Jacksonville, too so Raider Nation is sure to forget about Ekejuba.
Then there's the bonus of him making plays off of the edge.
Sam Williams is a height, weight, and speed guy who hasn't worked out at outside linebacker. The scholarship that Al Davis has put him on is mighty long.
He played pretty well on special teams last year and that maybe why Ekejuba was released. That height, weight, and speed could serve well on anything from L4 to R4 on the kick-off team among other things.
This could be the year that the scholarship ends
Thomas Howard didn't quite work out for the Raiders as a full-time outside linebacker. However, not all is lost here as there are still many ways he could help the Raiders.
Being a coverage linebacker is one of them.
Playing anywhere on special special team is another.
His speed is sure to help because he is as fast as most return men.
Travis Goethel looks like a good middle linebacker.
I feel good about him backing up first round draft pick Rolando McClain.
I also feel good about him in the R4 to L4 range of the kick-off team.
I hope they keep him.
Walter McFadden looks pretty good at corner.
But, the improvement of Stanford Routt will leave him as a reliable dime corner. This McFadden can run too so gunner is a good way from him to contribute on special teams.
Injuries can also make him a return man.
Mike Mitchell needs to start at free safety!
You need a guy who's not afraid to make a touchdown saving tackle. McClain isn't going to be perfect all the time so a tackler is needed at the free safety position.
And how about making opposing receivers play "Fear Factor?"
Huff is more of a corner type anyway.
Mitchell is a heck of a hitter who can cause some turnovers on special teams. I see him as an R1 or R2 on the kick-off team and a gunner on the punt team.
He needs to play more on defense though.
Jerome Boyd had made his case for making the team as a safety with an interception in Dallas. His 6'2", 225 lbs. body and athleticism also make a great case, as well.
That body and athleticism also make him a good L or R3 on the kick-off team.
Time for Hiram Eugene to go.
Ricky Brown and Jacoby Ford
With a photo like this, I might was well kill two birds with one stone.
Ricky Brown is a beast!
Well, why isn't he starting at linebacker?
Every time he starts to show something, he gets hurt.
There aren't a whole lot of special teams plays so I like his chances there. He can also play all of the linebacker spots so that makes him awesome to have on your team.
I see him doing damage anywhere from R4 to L4 on the kick-off team.
Jacoby Ford was obviously drafted for his 4.2 wheels. He doesn't look like he will start at wide receiver but his wheels will make an immediate impact as a kick returner.
Did you see what that young man did at Clemson?
Nick Miller showed his stuff in last year's training camp before getting injured. He started this year off the right way by catching the Raiders first touchdown pass of the preseason.
I'm really looking forward to seeing what he does to state his case toward getting on the field on Saturday.
When I previously spoke of him being a Wes Welker type, returning punts was part of it.
I expect to see him there if not anywhere else this year.
Yamon Figures is another one of those speed demons. He is currently competing for one of those wide receiver spots as well as a return spot.
I won't be surprised if he gets one.
I won't be surprised if he doesn't.
That speed will keep him in the league somewhere.
Johnny Lee Higgins
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I don't know what to think of him.
He showed Raider Nation something in '08 but didn't improve or build on it in '09.
Doesn't that sound like a lot of players that the Raiders got rid of?
You know the guys who show some potential then think that they have arrived after making a few plays. There were many whispers about Higgins exiting Raider Nation.
I looks like Chaz Schilens' injury put a monkey wrench in that. I believe it's out of him and Yamon figures for the last roster spot and Figures hasn't made a whole lot of noise so far.
I won't be surprised to see him stay or go either.
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I hope you enjoyed the slide show.