Oakland Raiders must improve kickoff units

By Josh Walfish
Kirby Lee- USA TODAY Sports

My look at the Oakland Raiders‘ special teams continues with the lows of this past season. There were not many of them, but there were two units that had subpar seasons in 2012.

The first was the kickoff return unit, which struggled to spark any sort of momentum for the Raiders. The unit averaged about 22 yards per return, which, when you take into account the fact that the average kick is about three yards deep in the end zone, is not all that good. Oakland does not have a true return threat, with its two retuners Coye Francies and Mike Goodson being average at best. Goodson had the longest return of the season at 51 yards, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. The Raiders only had two returns of more than 40 yards and only 26 of at least 20 yards.

However, the worst offender was Oakland’s kickoff coverage unit, which was among the worst in the NFL. The Raiders gave up an average of 28.9 yards per return, the worst in the league by two full yards. Oakland was one of three teams to give up two return touchdowns, an 105-yard return to Jacoby Jones in Week 8 and a 99-yard return by Michael Spurlock in Week 17. To make matters worse, Oakland didn’t score enough and only had 30 kickoffs all season.

One can’t blame Sebastian Janikowski, because his strong leg should have given the Raiders an advantage on kickoffs. The issue lies with the coverage units and that means better depth at linebacker and defensive backs, the two most prominent special teamers. This also happens to be where the Raiders lack depth, so until this changes, the Raiders will continue to give up big plays on special teams.

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