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Countdown to kickoff: 86 is Lee Smith, what the number means to the Raiders

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NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Offseason practices have been 86’d and we’re now 86 days until the season opener. Can you believe Lee Smith is entering his fourth season with the Raiders? It may not seem that way because he missed all but four games in 2016 due to injury.

That season, despite their offense leading the way to 12 wins, they missed Smith’s contributions. Without him, the team used a lot of jumbo packages with a tackle eligible. That may work from a blocking standpoint, but it essentially removes any need for a defender to stay at home in coverage.

Seeing Smith on TV doesn’t do him much justice. The 6-6, 265-pounder is one of the most imposing people you’ll ever see in person. And you’ll immediately feel thankful you’re not meeting in on a football field or in a dark alley.

The big tight end re-signed with the Raiders on a one-year deal this offseason and embodies the Gruden Grinder mentality. He blocks through the whistle and gets in the faces and into the heads of his defenders. And honestly, he has sneaky underrated hands for a guy labeled a blocking tight end. He has caught 46 of 55 career targets which is an impressive 84% catch rate.

What 86 means to the Raiders

The longest playoff reception in franchise history was an 86-yard pass from Jeff Hostetler to Tim Brown in the third quarter of the team’s division playoff game against the Bills. The reception gave the Raiders a 23-22 one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Bills would score again in the fourth quarter to win the game 29-23.

Hostetler and Brown had hooked up for a 65-yard touchdown in the previous week, a wildcard win over the Denver Broncos. Hostetler was one of the few solid quarterbacks Tim Brown had in his career with the Raiders. Brown had his first 1000-yard season that year when Hostetler was signed, and Brown made the Pro Bowl every season Hostetler as his QB. But that 93 season was their only playoff year.