Last, but not least, we've arrived at the specialists group.
In his first season as the Oakland Raiders Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia and his unit dealt with a lot of adversity. For the first half of the season, it felt like the Raiders had a new kicker every week, but the team finally found a solution with former Auburn Tiger Daniel Carlson.
Before Bisaccia and the rest of the Raiders coaching staff heads to Mobile, Ala., for the 2019 Senior Bowl, let's break down the final Position Review from the 2018 season.
There were a lot of areas on the roster the Raiders that took time to gel, before eventually getting better, and I'd include the special teams group in that category as well. For most of the season, the Silver and Black featured a trio of rookies who were not only learning how to get comfortable with each other but were adjusting to the pressure and demands of the NFL stage as well.
After being selected by the Raiders of the fifth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, punter Johnny Townsend experienced his fair share of highs and lows during his first NFL campaign, but Head Coach Jon Gruden continued to support the former Florida Gator throughout. Through the woes, Townsend showed that when he's on, he's on. Townsend averaged 43.2 yards per punt, and placed 17 within the 20-yard line during his first season as a Raider. The 23 year old has room for improvement, but that's to be expected with any rookie, and I'm sure Townsend will be dedicated to honing his craft this offseason.
As mentioned above, Daniel Carlson could quite possibly be the Raiders long-term solution at the kicker position. Since joining the team in Week 8 he was incredibly accurate, converting 16 of his 17 field goal tries, and he made all 18 of his extra point attempts to boot. Carlson started his NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings, but after getting off to a rocky start, the team let him go, and he was eventually picked up by the Raiders. Carlson showed he's got a big leg, drilling all three of his 50-yard field goal attempts through the uprights. Hopefully he can continue to operate at a high level for years to come.
Rounding out the team's special teams unit, rookie long snapper Trent Sieg joined the team as an undrafted free agent, and filled in admirably for the injured Andrew DePaola, who suffered a torn ACL during the team's first game of the season.
It wouldn't be a complete review unless we mentioned the savvy play from veteran return man Dwayne Harris this season. On a few separate occasions, Harris baffled spectators by housing a 99-yard punt, and forcing penalties against opposing special teams units. His football IQ is truly on another level, and I understand why Bisaccia made it a priority to acquire him last offseason.
The Number To Know:
The Raiders had five different kickers on their roster this season. Dating back to training camp, Giorgio Tavecchio — now in Atlanta with the Falcons — Eddy Piñeiro, and Mike Nugent were all competing for the starting job, but the team decided to let Tavecchio go, and keep Nugent as their primary kicker after Piñeiro was sidelined with an injury during camp. Nugent was eventually placed on the Reserve/Injured list with Piñeiro, which forced the Raiders to sign rookie kicker Matt McCrane. During his three games with the Raiders, McCrane made five of his nine field goal attempts, which once again forced the team to bring in a new leg, Daniel Carlson.
There was a lot of turnover at this position in one year, and we'll see what the coaching staff decides to do in the coming months.
Position Group MVP:
No question here, it's Carlson.
Since joining the team in Week 8, he couldn't miss. No matter what the scoreboard showed, Carlson was ready for anything, and his one missed field goal was his only hiccup during his first season as a Raider.
Moving ahead, I'll be interested to see what Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock decide to do in free agency, and during the draft. The general sense is that Townsend and Carlson will continue to serve as the team's primary special teamers, but anything is subject to change. The trio of rookies are all under contract for 2019, but Harris is a free agent. Rich Bisaccia will have a lot of tape to evaluate this offseason I'm sure.
Reviewing the Raiders' special teams unit from the 2018 season.