2015 Position Review: Special Teams

Posted Feb 19, 2016

As the NFL offseason gets underway, takes a look back at the current Raiders roster and breaks down each position.

More Position Reviews: Quarterbacks, Safeties, Offensive Line, Cornerbacks, Defensive Line, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends

Overview: The special teams unit for the Raiders in 2015 presented a mixed bag of results.

Yes, Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King turned in impressive seasons, and yes, the Silver and Black tied the NFL record with five combined blocked extra points and field goals, but for a second-consecutive season the team could not find any type of cohesion in the return game.

Before Jeremy Ross was signed to the active roster Nov. 25, Taiwan Jones handled a majority of the kick return duties, while a handful of players, including TJ Carrie and even Amari Cooper, tried their hand at returning punts.

As far as the long snapping duties went, Jon Condo was his usual consistent self through 13 games until he injured his shoulder recovering a crucial fumble against the Denver Broncos and was forced to miss the remainder of the season after going on Injured Reserve.

Thomas Gafford finished the season out for the Raiders, performing admirably in his three games in Condo’s relief.

On the coverage side of things, Jamize Olawale paced the unit with 10 special teams tackles and Lorenzo Alexander, Andre Holmes and Taiwan Jones all chimed in with seven apiece.

By The Numbers: Since 2000, Janikowski has missed only four games, and including postseason play, he has played in 258 games for the Raiders, which is good for first place on the Raiders’ all-time games played list.

Going Forward: The special teams units appear to be another group headed for a bit of an update in 2016.

While Janikowski and Condo are under contract for 2016, King is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, so if he so chooses, he’ll have the chance to test the open market.

As far as some of the other key cogs going forward, Gafford, Lorenzo Alexander and Andre Holmes are also scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

The real name to keep an eye on as the offseason program progresses? Wide receiver Andre Debose.

The Silver and Black selected the special teams ace from the University of Florida in the seventh round (No. 221 overall) of last year’s draft in the hopes that he’d be able to provide a spark in the return game, but the dynamic rookie never got the chance as he was hurt and placed on Injured Reserve before the team even made it to training camp.

During his collegiate career as a Gator, Debose was unquestionably impressive in the return game.

He owns the school record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns, and was also named the team’s Most Valuable Special Teams Player as a senior, so if he is able to stay healthy, he could be an intriguing player to watch once the pads go on.

Standout Performer: Marquette King.

King truly blossomed in his third season handling the punting duties for the Raiders.

While his booming leg was never in question, in 2015 King began to show off the type of finesse he didn’t have in his arsenal as a younger player.

In 2015, he set the franchise record with 40 punts placed inside the 20-yard line, and those 40 punts ranked second in the NFL.

He was also named the AFC Specials Teams Player of the Week after his performance against the San Diego Chargers in Week 16, and enjoyed a career-high 40.7 net punting average throughout the season.