The Oakland Raiders enjoyed another quality season from their specialists in 2015.
Sebastian Janikowski once again found himself mentioned with some the premier place kickers in the league, and punter Marquette King enjoyed a career year, setting a franchise record with 40 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Oftentimes the forgotten phase of football, special teams has the ability to change the course of the game in just one play, and having solid consistent play from a team's specialists is crucial for a team hoping to earn its way to the postseason. As the Silver and Black prepare for the start of Training Camp 2016, let's take a look at the Raiders' specialists and see what to expect from them this season.
Kicker – Sebastian Janikowski – 17th Season – Florida State
As "Seabass" prepares to embark on his 17th season with the organization, he's showed no signs of slowing down.
Not only did Janikowski convert on 80.2 percent of his field goals in 2015, he was also once again a full participant in the Raiders' Offseason Workout Program this spring.
Even at age 38, there's no reason to think that the Polish national will be supplanted as the team's kicker in 2016, particularly with a booming leg that doesn't seem to be losing any of its power, even after nearly 400 career made field goals.
A look at the special teams unit for the Oakland Raiders
With his penchant for the dramatic, Janikowski is a fan favorite, and another quality season from the physical kicker would be a luxury for Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the Silver and Black that many other NFL teams aren't fortunate enough to have.
Kicker – Giorgio Tavecchio – Second Season – University of California
After stops with the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and the Detroit Lions, Tavecchio is currently in the midst of his second full offseason with the Raiders.
While the University of California-product certainly has the skill and ability to be an NFL kicker, with a limited amount of open jobs throughout the league, he just hasn't yet gotten his opportunity yet to prove that on a consistent basis.
While it would appear that Sebastian Janikowski once again has a firm hold on the team's placekicking duties in 2016, competition on the roster from top to bottom is key, and that's what Tavecchio provides, in addition to another leg to spell Janikowski throughout the grueling days of training camp.
Long Snapper – Jon Condo – 10th Season – University of Maryland
Condo had appeared in 141 consecutive games for the Raiders before he was forced to miss the final three games of the 2015 season after injuring his shoulder in the team's Week 14 win over the Denver Broncos.
Widely regarded as one of the premier long snappers in the NFL, Condo was a full participant in the team's Offseason Workout Program and is now fully healthy heading into training camp.
All indications are that he should reclaim his job as the starting long snapper in what will be his 10th season in Silver and Black.
Long Snapper – Andrew East – Second Season – Vanderbilt
After spending Training Camp 2015 with the Kansas City Chiefs, East spent a brief time with the Seattle Seahawks before signing with the Raiders in April.
With nearly every team in the NFL keeping just one long snapper on the roster – combined with a healthy Jon Condo – East is certainly facing an uphill climb to the make the roster.
However, as last season showed, it's important to have depth – even with the specialists – because an unforeseen injury can drastically change the way the unit goes about its business.
Punter – Marquette King – Fifth Season – Fort Valley State
In his third season as the starting punter for the Raiders, King enjoyed arguably his best season as a professional.
He set a franchise record with 40 punts placed inside the 20-yard line, and also boasted a career-high 40.7 net punting average.
King has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, so heading into 2016 what does special teams coordinator Brad Seely want to see from the punter? Consistency.
"I think the key is for, really at any position, especially for a punter, is consistency," Seely explained. "How many times can you kick a really good ball in a row and how many times does your bad punt show up, because everybody has a bad punt. The key is [to] limit those and can we live with those bad punts."
If King can limit those "bad punts" he has a chance to be one of the elite punters in the NFL and will provide a valuable weapon for the Silver and Black in 2016.
Keep An Eye On…
As it stands now, the Raiders' specialists appear nearly set in stone as the team prepares to begin the 2016 season.
With that in mind, I'm interested to see how Sebastian Janikowski looks throughout training camp and the preseason. At 38 years old, the physically-daunting kicker still has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and having him once again perform at an elite level would be a huge asset for the Raiders in 2016.
Another thing that will be crucial for this group over the next six weeks is staying healthy. As we mentioned earlier, Janikwkoski is 38, and Condo is coming off a shoulder injury, so making sure the core group is ready to go for Week 1 will be paramount for their success.