Kicker Sebastian Janikowski (11) and punter Shane Lechler (9) of the Oakland Raiders (photo by Levi Damien)
The headliners in this group have not changed for over a decade. Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler are the highest paid and longest tenured special teams duo in the NFL. Even the man snapping the ball to them has been at it for a good long while. Only the return men have seen some changeover.
Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler were both drafted the same year (2001) and have set record together over the past 11 seasons. That will continue in 2012. As will the stalwart long snapping of Jon Condo.
At different points of last season, the Raiders had three primary punt returners-Nick Miller, Denarius Moore, and Bryan McCann. Miller was cut shortly after the season began and by midseason the team signed McCann as a free agent.
Kick returns has been Jacoby Ford's job the past two seasons. He returned three for touchdowns as a rookie and one last season while missing most the season with injuries. Fielding kickoffs when he was injured was Taiwan Jones and even Tyvon Branch a few times.
Here is what the Raiders special teams depth chart should look like as the team heads into OTA's:
Sebastian Janikowski- Go easy on me in your criticism of putting Seabass as the Raiders' kicker. I know it's a real stretch (that's sarcasm in case anyone wasn't sure).
1. Shane Lechler- Again, another real leap on my part but sometimes one must make the bold picks.
2. Marquette King- He may end up being just a camp leg for the Raiders but King is no joke. He is a pretty talented punter. He, like Lechler, had an 80 yard punt last season. He also had a couple over 70 yards. If he can't find a home in Oakland, someone else may come calling.
Jon Condo- The third portion of the Raiders Pro Bowl kicking trio. And as a former linebacker, he is also one of the best kick coverage guys in the NFL.
1. Bryan McCann- Had a problem at one time in his career with fumbling. He had no issues with that last season and the team brought him back primarily to return kicks again for them.
2. Mike Goodson- Returned kicks in Carolina and will likely continue to do so in Oakland as a reserve running back.
3. Denarius Moore- Was the starting kick returner after the team cut Nick Miller. He ended up injuring himself and as the team's number one receiver, they will probably only have him returning kicks if need be.
1. Jacoby Ford- Though he is a damn fine receiver, he is an All Pro level punt returner. He is a threat to break for a touchdown every time he fields a kick. He is a tremendous asset to this team in those duties.
2. Taiwan Jones- He was injured nearly the same time Ford was last season so we didn't get to see much of that world class speed and agility that had the Raiders take a flyer on him in the 2011 draft. Between he and Jacoby Ford, the Raiders have the two fastest players in the last two drafts to return kicks. Meep, meep.
3. Conroy Black- One of the fastest players in this year's draft, he will hope to up his chances of making this team by showing off some return skills. But if he can't also show some good cornerback skills, he will be hard pressed to be the kick return man ahead of Ford or Jones.