Sometimes in life the most undesirable choices, or opportunities, prove to be the most impactful.
If you ask any kid playing football right now what position they would play in the NFL, chances are they wouldn’t say special teams, and it’s hard to blame them considering it isn’t the most glamorous phase of the game; however, that all depends on how you look at it.
To be a successful team at the NFL level, you must find ways to be productive in all three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. That might seem obvious, but to the untrained eye, when the special teams unit takes the field that’s when it’s time to go grab a beer or a hot dog.
Well, Raiders rookies Johnathan Abram, Isaiah Johnson, and Foster Moreau are here to tell you that you need to stay seated.
“Flipping the field position and making those types of plays whether people know it or not is really huge,” Johnson said Thursday. “Teams want to get first downs and flip the field position to change the momentum of the game, but if you can pin somebody in the 10-yard line or if you can takeaway five yards on kickoff, or have an explosive kickoff return, things like that add on to the game and increases your chances of winning. That momentum swing, those plays being made, flipping the field position is big in the game and can make the difference between a win and a loss.”
I couldn’t agree more with Johnson’s statement, games are won and lost on special teams. Take a second to remember the 2013 Iron Bowl when Chris Davis defeated Alabama with the “Kick Six,” or the Miracle at the Meadowlands when DeSean Jackson had a walk-off punt return touchdown against the Giants in 2010, and let’s not forget all the times now-retired kicker Sebastian Janikowski led the Raiders to victory with a successful last-second field goal.
Special teams can either suck the life out of a team or give it a much-needed boost to win the game. Not only is it important to the success of the team, but often times it’s how players secure their spot on a roster. The more you can do the better, and the trio of Raiders rookies are anxious to make their mark on Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s unit.
“I see myself playing a special teams role. Initially just buying myself some time to find my mold, work my way into the offensive system and get the trust of the coaches,” Moreau said. “I’m just excited to see what I can do, obviously kind of flex my blocking prowess and I found that was a good way to get on the field at LSU [through special teams.]”
"For me, that’s the gateway, to me,” Johnson added. “Whether people know it or not that’s the difference between winning and losing. If I can contribute on special teams no matter how much it is I would feel special just because I can help this team win more games. I played gunner at Houston and I’m very experienced on special teams so I can’t wait [to do my part].”
Special teams is not only crucial to the success of a team, but as well as the individual. A lot of players find ways to stick around because of special teams, and it’s an excellent way to get your foot in the door. It all boils down to ultimately finding ways to help the Raiders win ball games, and if you can do that, you’ll most likely make a strong impression on Head Coach Jon Gruden.
The goal is simple: do whatever is necessary to help the team win. First-round pick Johnathan Abram is ready to do that and more, and if he, Johnson, and Moreau can play their part, it should translate in the win column.
“If I can help on defense and special teams then we’ve got a pretty good chance of winning,” Abram shared. “One play on special teams can change an entire outcome of a game. A punt is taken to the house or a punt is blocked, the chances of winning that game go up extremely.”
So, next time you think to yourself, “ah, the special teams unit is taking the field, this seems like a good time to get an ice cold brew,” take a moment to also think about the game-changing play you might miss.
Friday morning, Head Coach Jon Gruden and several rookies took the podium to speak with reporters for the first time since the 2019 NFL Draft. While Gruden took the time to field questions about the new additions to the roster, he also touched on running back Isaiah Crowell’s injury.
"Isaiah came in here on a one-year contract and I was hoping this would be a launching pad for him to really showcase what he can do. It’s very unfortunate and we wish him the best. The way he got hurt was amazing, I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a freak injury and fortunately RB Doug Martin has been very interested in coming back."
Following the signing of tackle Trent Brown, it proposed an interesting question: will Brown play left tackle, or right tackle?
Gruden provided an answer Friday.
“We are going to start with Kolton [Miller] at left tackle and Trent [Brown] will begin on the right side. Brandon Parker will be the swing tackle and we like that as a launching pad for us. Trent played very well at right tackle for San Francisco, played left tackle very well for New England and gives us some versatility. That’s how we are going to start the show.”