Oakland Raiders Post-Bye Notebook: Looking ahead

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Dec 22, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Taiwan Jones (22) carries the ball on a kickoff return against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Find a Punt Returner and Stick With Him

The Raiders have had a hard time on special teams all year, but the most notable problem there has been the lack of a clear-cut full-time punt returner. After drafting Florida return ace Andre Dubose only to see him go down with an injury, the Raiders tried out multiple players as both punt and kickoff return men, including Trindon Holliday, George Atkinson III, starting corner/safety TJ Carrie and starting wideout and rookie sensation Amari Cooper. Both Cooper and Carrie have returned punts in the regular season, with Carrie sustaining a nasty injury on his last punt return.

While the Raiders have identified at least one kickoff return guy – backup running back and noted special teams ace Taiwan Jones – there still isn’t a viable second option there, either: Marcel Reece and Roy Helu, Jr – neither of them noted speedsters – handled kickoff return duties while Jones was out with a foot injury.

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  • The return game can take a flawed team like the Raiders and make them far more dangerous if handled correctly. It can help the offense start drives at the 30 or 35 rather than inside the 20. It can force opposing punters to kick away or high, sacrificing yardage. Well-timed return scores can be clutch for teams to build momentum or take momentum away from opponents, and they are found points that essentially steal a possession from your opponent.

    The Raiders need to solve this dilemma over the bye week, and may have done it over the weekend by signing Walt Powell, most recently of the Buffalo Bills. Powell’s only significant action came last year with the New York Jets, where he was signed after being released in the preseason by the Arizona Cardinals, who had drafted him in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.

    Powell played in four games for the Jets, returning twelve punts and eight kickoffs, amassing  281 total return yards, which included an impressive 29.125 yard per return average on kickoffs. Powell was signed to the Raiders’ active roster and remains there as of today. If he is activated for the game this Sunday, look for him to assume punt return duties and to share kickoff return duties with Taiwan Jones, as well.

    Next: Post Bye Notebook: Raiders Need to Block Out Relocation Distraction