Usually, I'd make a big fuss about the importance of special teams, but by now I'd like to think the majority of NFL fans appreciate one of the three crucial phases of the game.
For 17 years, Sebastian Janikowski called the Silver and Black home — it's weird to think it's been four years since he last suited up as a Raider. Often times, teams deal with a changing of the guard for years and experiment with a few options after the departure of a long-tenured kicker. The Raiders certainly had to sift through their fair share of kickers, but it seems as though Daniel Carlson is the man to carry the torch going forward; however, he will have some competition this year.
Welcome to the final edition of the 2020 Position Battles.
Previous Position Battles:
The Raiders have been searching for consistency at long snapper, punter, and kicker for a couple of years now, but they finally have a trio of guys who gel well together, so why attempt to break that up?
Well, as the saying goes, competition brings the best out of people, and even though Carlson has proved to be a reliable kicker the past two seasons, he did endure a minor slump last year. Dominik Eberle, an undrafted free agent from Utah State, is going to be Carlson's competition throughout training camp this year, and he has an impressive body of work coming in.
Eberle played four years in college and finished as one of the best players in the program's history. He became the all-time points leader at Utah State, successfully split the uprights 64 times, and made every single PAT he attempted (167).
Despite vying for the same job, Carlson isn't threatened by the competition, in fact, he's using it as an opportunity to mentor Eberle and show him the ropes.
"I wanted to take the rookies under our wing a little because I remember what it was like for me coming in, and you have lots of questions, and you're trying to figure things out at this new level," Carlson said in early June. "So, I think it was important for all of us to get together and spend some time working together."
The trio of Carlson, Sieg, and Cole have been in Las Vegas together for a little over a month now, working on their timing and kicking, but also spending time with each other off the field. AJ Cole was introduced to the squad last year after beating out former fifth-round pick Johnny Townsend for the starting job, and the three quickly formed a bond from then on.
I expect Carlson, Cole, and Sieg to be the starters in 2020 because of the chemistry they've formed with each other and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, and due to the fact it'll be hard for the rookies to earn live reps within the league's current circumstances; however, I've been wrong before. Cole is currently the only punter on the roster though, so I think his job is safe.
Last year, I had a scalding take that Carlson wouldn't miss a single field goal all year — simply a foolish thing to say on my behalf. While the odds of Carlson finishing the season perfect are slim to none, I do think he'll rebound from his slump in 2019 and finish the year with a field goal percentage of 90. When the former Auburn Tiger joined the Raiders halfway through the 2018 season, Carlson ended up with a 94.1 field goal percentage over the course of those nine weeks.
View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders specialists heading into 2020 Training Camp.