The Oakland Raiders make the special things better

By Josh Walfish

This is a unique post because it combines special teams and quarterbacks. Nevertheless all of these positions are special in their own way and the Oakland Raiders have some of the best in the league at these three positions.

Quarterbacks: The quarterback position was in flux for the Raiders last season after Jason Campbell was injured and out for the entire season. Luckily, Oakland was able to swing a deal for Carson Palmer and instantly make an upgrade at the signal caller. The former Heisman Trophy winner struggled last season while he was trying to learn the offense, but still completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw for more than 2,700 yards. Although he threw 16 interceptions last season, 11 of them were thrown in his first four starts. As the season progressed Palmer looked like he got more comfortable and his crowning achievement was a 32-for-40 performance against the Detroit Lions when he threw for more than 367 yards. Oakland has a capable backup in Matt Leinart  and a project with Terrelle Pryor, both of whom had successful careers in college. Leinart has not really panned out as a starter in the NFL, but still can be reliable if needed. His biggest issue is confidence after his so-so rookie year was followed by being demoted to backup behind Kurt Warner and then having the plug pulled after Warner retired. Pryor is the biggest unknown of the group, but he has a lot of talent and it will be interesting to see how he does if he needs to play against starting defenses. His trial runs in the preseason went smoothly, but he didn’t wow in his first real game action as a member of the Raiders.

Punter: Arguably the best punter in the league, Shane Lechler has been the best punter in Oakland since Ray Guy. He averaged more than 50 yards per punt last season and about 34 percent of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. His nine touchbacks were the second-most in the NFL and his eight fair catches tied for the fewest of any starting punter. He had an 80-yard bomb last season and he has been a consistent performer since he first joined Oakland in 2000.

Kicker: Nobody attempted more field goals of more than 50 yards last season than Sebastian Janikowski and nobody made more than him either. The Florida State product has been booming kicks for the Raiders since 2000 and has hit at least 80 percent of his field goals each of the last four seasons. He made 7-of-10 field goals of more than Janikowski hit every field goal he attempted from inside 40 yards and has only had 10 kicks blocked in his career. His strong leg and accuracy has made him a mainstay in Oakland and is tied the record for longest field goal in NFL history with his 63-yard shot last season.

These are three of the most important people to the Raiders success this season. If Lechler can continue to pin teams back, Janikowski can continue to hit the long field goals at an incredible clip and Palmer can limit the interceptions, Oakland could be in contention for the division title and a spot in the playoffs.


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