As he is set to begin his second season as the special teams coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Tom McMahon is looking for fielding a complete unit in 2023.
The Raiders boast superstars in kicker Daniel Carlson and punter A.J. Cole. Yet, the unit is looking to get better in other areas, paramount of which is the return game.
The Raiders have struggled to field a dynamic return game for years. This year, they have several players vying to handle for the kick and punt return duties with third-round pick Tre Tucker, new free-agent receiver DeAndre Carter and incumbents, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and running back Ameer Abdullah all in the mix. Receivers Keelan Cole and D.J. Turner also has some experience.
Recently, McMahon said they made progress in the return game during the offseason sessions and it will be a focal point of training camp.
“All of our returners are doing a great job, it’s not just two guys coming in,” McMahon said. “It’s not just the guys that were here before. I speak as a whole group just as I speak about our specialists; everybody’s working their tails off to try to make us the best special teams unit we can be. And that’s all we can ask that every day they go out there and do the best they can. But I’ll never, ever just single out the two guys because you never know who it’s going to be. Q: What do you like about all your returners skillsets? Coach McMahon: “With all of our return skill sets, the biggest thing is they can create their own return. And what happens is sometimes you’re going to miss a block here or there and all five of these guys, all six, all seven, all eight, whoever we put back there, we feel like these guys can create that.”
While the punt and kick returner could be different, I think in a perfect world this season, Tucker gets the chance to return both punts and kicks. Tucker returned 67 kickoffs for a 24.9 per return average with two touchdowns in four seasons. He returned 43 punts in his Bearcats’ career for an 8.6 yards average with no scores.
Tucker likely will have a limited role in the Las Vegas offense as a rookie as he’s buried on the depth chart and Carter is no lock to make the team. Plus, assuming Renfrow will still have a large role in the offense, it would be best to get him out of the mix in punt return. Abdullah is a solid backup choice as a kick returner. He had 26 returns for a 20.9 average in 2022.
So, in a training camp with much competition on both offense and defense, there will also be a battle to watch in the return game.
How do you see the Raiders’ return game playing out in 2023?
This poll is closed
Tre Tucker primary returner
DeAndre Carter primary returner
Ameer Abdullah kicks, Hunter Renfrow punts