Oakland Raiders depth chart projections: Defense/ST

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Special Teams

Special teams are usually considered the “third phase” of the game and often overlooked in discussions of team strengths and weaknesses. But as any long time Raider fan can tell you, special teams can in many ways make your team. Special teams creates points, but also creates field position for both your offense and defense. Special teams also creates momentum and changes fortunes in an instant.

Raider fans remember how big special teams plays against San Diego in 2010 set the stage for the Raiders’ first win over the chargers in almost seven years. Raider fans also remember what happened when Jon Condo went out with an injury and backup linebacker Travis Goethel botched three long snaps in a 22-14 loss to San Diego. Older Raider fans may also remember what kind of weapon Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy was for the Raider teams that won three Super Bowls in the 1970’s and 80’s.

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  • There are three roster spots specifically reserved for specialists: kicker, punter and long snapper. Those positions are very clearly manned, though the Raiders did bring in a kicker and punter to act as camp legs. Entering his sixteenth season with the Raiders is the Polish Cannon himself, Sebastian Janikowski. Seabass has been on and off in terms of accuracy over the past few years, but had an above average season last year, hitting 86.4% of his field goals, including 3 of 5 from 50 yards or more. Former University of California-Berkeley kicker Giorgio Tavecchio is on the roster, but he missed 8 extra points and made 75% of his field goals in college, and doesn’t have near the leg power of Janikowski.

    The Raiders cut ties with perennial best punter in the league Shane Lechler before the 2013 season in favor of the young punter with the booming leg, Marquette King. So far it’s seemed like a wise decision, as King has come into his own as a very quality punter who has good range and hang time and is improving with his directional accuracy. Punter Steven Clark, formerly of Auburn, will probably come in to do some punting in preseason games and be gone at the first roster cutdown.

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  • The Raiders also have long-snapper Jon Condo, entering his 10th season in the NFL. Condo is one of the best long-snappers in the league, and is also a quality coverage man on the punt coverage unit as well. Hopefully the Raiders will bring up another player behind him as a backup, perhaps tight end Lee Smith or one of the linebackers, to avoid another Travis Goethel situation.

    Special teams also calls for a few players who play positions on offense or defense to be retained primarily to play key roles on special teams. The Raiders have a deep stable of players who can be good in punt and kick coverage units, especially the speedy Taiwan Jones, who will likely make the team on the running back depth chart but will mostly hit the field as a gunner on punts and with the kick coverage unit. Wideout Brice Butler may also be used heavily in a special teams role, as could backup DB’s and linebackers like Chimdi Chekwa, Brandian Ross and Ray-Ray Armstrong.

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  • The Raiders also need to identify kickoff and punt returners, especially with the loss of rookie return man Andre DeBose, the 7th round draft pick out of Florida. The Raiders went out and acquired veteran returner Trindon Holliday, but Holliday may not make the team due to his lack of competency as a wideout. Second-year man George Atkinson III was a quality return man at Notre Dame, but didn’t really show much in his brief time on the field for Oakland last season and, as a running back, may not have enough to beat out a very solid group of players for a roster spot. Cornerback TJ Carrie was used heavily as a punt and kick returner in 2014, and Latavius Murray also returned some kickoffs, but both players are almost definitely starters this year and as such will likely not be full-time return men.

    The wild card here is Taiwan Jones, who aside from being an outstanding gunner and kick cover man, returned 26 kickoffs in 2013, averaging 24 yards per return. The Raiders have also been working out #4 overall draft pick Amari Cooper, who projects to be a starting wideout, as a punt returner, something he did in high school. Cooper may return punts initially, though the Raiders will likely move to replace him in that role as his importance to the offense increases.


    K: Sebastian Janikowski

    P: Marquette King

    H: Cody Fajardo

    LS: Jon Condo

    Gunners: Taiwan Jones, Brice Butler

    KR: Taiwan Jones

    PR: Amari Cooper

    Next: Depth Chart Projections: Defensive Line