Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will analyze each position group leading up to Raiders training camp, which starts on July 29.
The Raiders have long looked for consistency in the return game. Last year, they couldn’t find it. Seven different players took a turn returning punts or kickoffs, without great success.
Taiwan Jones showed explosive kick return quality but he was injured a long stretch and had ball security issues when healthy. TJ Carrie has potential wiggling free from punt coverage.
Special teams coordinator Brad Seely said incumbents have a leg up on challengers, but a solid preseason from newcomers could unseat returning players. With staples punting and kicking field goals, returning will be a main focus of this training camp.
- K Sebastian Janikowski
- P Marquette King
- PR TJ Carrie
- KR Taiwan Jones
- LS Jon Condo
- KR/PR DeAndre Washington
- KR/PR Joe Hansley
- KR/PR Jaydon Mickens
- KR/PR George Atkinson III
- K Giorgio Tavecchio
1. Will return game get new blood?
Taiwan Jones and TJ Carrie have solid return skills, but young players at times in search of a roster spot will be vying for those jobs. The Raiders are looking for explosiveness and consistency in the return game and will evaluate several options in early portions of training camp and the preseason. Young receiver Joe Hansley has experience as a returner, and should get an opportunity to show his skill. Jaydon Mickens is learning a largely new role, and DeAndre Washington is showing an ability to contribute to on offense and special teams. They’ll have to show better than game tape on Jones and Carrie to step in.
2. Can Sebastian Janikowski increase his conversion rate?
The Raiders veteran kicker has been consistent over so many years despite taking risky, long-distance field goal attempts. He only converted 80.8 percent of his attempts in 2015, a drop after 86.4 percent the year before. His career average hovers at 80.2, but has been especially strong the last five years. Janikowski expects to be strong and steady, even on deep kicks that are low-percentage volleys for most.
3. Will new players help in kick coverage?
The Raiders value special teams coverage, and brought in a few valued cover men in free agency. Daren Bates and Brynden Trawick have been special teams stalwarts with other teams, and will combine with Jones, Andre Holmes and Jamize Olawale to form a special teams core. Those players should meld well and lead the battle for field position.