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Raiders free agency 2022: Tom McMahon’s group gets needed attention

Mack Hollins, Micah Kiser aren’t sexy free-agent pickups, but they’ll help bolster special teams

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Mack Hollins grew into a special team’s ace for the Miami Dolphins. Expect him to be a Raiders ace now he’s in Las Vegas.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Fans and media alike may have been clamoring for Mack Hollins to see more playing time on offense over the course of his five-year career. And for good reason. The North Carolina product does offer exceptional size at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds for a wide receiver and is the mismatch-type teams covet.

But the lack of opportunities on offense doesn’t bother Hollins none. From his days as a Tarheel to now, the 28-year-old digs the niche he’s carved since being a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft: Special team’s ace.

That’s something the Las Vegas Raiders sorely need.

While Hollins’ addition via free agency wasn’t as sexy of a pickup as say Davante Adams, Hollins will get his chance to be a Silver & Black mainstay, much like the more heralded No. 1 wide receiver the Raiders got in a trade with the Green Bay Packers. And special team’s boss Tom McMahon must be ecstatic to have someone of Hollins’ caliber in his unit.

If field position wasn’t already at a premium, the importance of it has exponentially increase in a suddenly loaded AFC West. Which makes Hollins’ addition all the more impressive. As a gunner on the punt unit, Hollins makes it a habit of being his team needed him most: Sprinting downfield, beating blockers, tracking the ball and downing it inside the 20-yard line. Hollins was such a fierce special teamer with the Miami Dolphins he was named a team captain last season. Hollins getting the “C” patch to denote captain may have been surprising to outsiders due his rare presence on offense, but for Miami, it was a no-brainer.

“I think it’s probably under the radar from your vantage point, but in our locker room — that’s just something that no one else would know,” then-Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said of Hollins’ leadership skills this past season. “He brings energy on a daily basis. He works hard. It’s important to him. He plays in a variety of position. He plays in the kicking game. I think he does a lot of good things for our team and his teammates elected him captain and I think they did that for a reason.”

Hollins competing for and winning a gunner spot on the kick unit will only bolster Raiders punter A.J. Cole III’s effectiveness this coming season. Already a boomer of a punter, having Hollins running down said boots and either downing the ball or limiting the return yards will only make Cole’s field-flipping ways much more impressive.

The added bonus of having Hollins on the 53-man roster in 2022 is his ability to pitch in at wide receiver when ever needed. He was targeted 28 times last season catching 14 of those throws for 223 yards and four touchdowns. Pro Football Reference charts him with only one drop and 11 of those 14 receptions going for first downs. For his career, Hollins sports a 56-catch, 750-yards, six-touchdowns stat line in 65 career games (eight starts).

DENVER BRONCOS VS LOS ANGELES CHARGERS, NFL
Micah Kiser was a mainstay on the Denver Broncos special teams unit last season. That was a group headed by Tom McMahon, now the Las Vegas Raiders special teams boss.
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Hollins isn’t the only special teams piece the Raiders got McMahon in free agency. The team also signed linebacker Micah Kiser, a player McMahon is quite familiar with as the defender joins the coach in the desert after both were with the Denver Broncos last season. Injuries depleted the Broncos depth and Kiser was brought into to fill it out.

The Virginia-product saw time on defense (98 total snaps in 10 games) but was heavily involved in McMahon’s special teams unit (138 snaps) in Denver. In total, Kiser finished 2021 with 19 total tackles and one stop for loss. The 27-year-old has been in the league for four seasons since being taken in the fifth round of the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Ram. He’s racked up a total of 100 tackles, three passes defensed, one forced fumble in 36 career games (11 starts).

Expect more clear-cut special teamers to join the Raiders as free agency progresses and during and after the draft. But so far, Las Vegas has done well to add Hollins and Kiser to the mix.