The Raiders special teams had plenty of issues last season, but a comprehensive breakdown of every facet of special teams shows that the Raiders placed in the top one-fourth overall.
The annual rankings come courtesy of longtime sportswriter Rick Gosselin, who currently works for Talk Fame Sports Network. Over the years, Gosselin has carved out a niche in NFL circles as a result of his intense breakdown of special teams.
He arrives at his rankings by virtue of ranking teams from best to worst in 22 kicking game categories, with the top team in each category receiving one point and the worst 32.
The Raiders tied for seventh with the Buffalo Bills at 309.5 points overall. For what it’s worth the Dallas Cowboys were fifth under new Raiders special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. New Raiders head coach Jon Gruden hired Bisaccia as soon as he joined the Raiders again, which forced out Brad Seely.
Of note, the Raiders finished fifth in average kickoff starting point at the 25.8-yard line, 2 yards behind the league-leading Baltimore Ravens. This owes to the addition of kick-return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson via free agency. He averaged a robust 28.3, third-best in the league among returners with at least 10 kick returns.
The Raiders were fifth in gross punting at 47.4 yards and third in net punting at 42.7 on the strength of Marquette King’s consistently strong leg.
On the downside, the Raiders special teams has plenty of room for improvement. Jalen Richard was among the worst punt returners at an average of 6 yards, and he led the league with six fumbles.
One of the first things Gruden and Bisaccia have to figure out is whether to stick with kicker Giorgio Tavecchio or go back to veteran Sebastian Janikowski, who was drafted by the Raiders in 2000 when Gruden was in the third year of his first tenure here.
Tavecchio converted 76.2 percent of his field-goal attempts and all but one of his 34 extra-point attempts.
For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Rams had the best special teams in 2017, according to Gosselin’s rankings. The Rams are coached by former Raiders special teams coordinator John Fassel.
The importance of special teams was underscored in the first round of the playoffs, as Rams Pro Bowl returner Pharoh Cooper muffed a punt that first bounced off a teammate and later was stripped of the ball on a kick return. Those two gaffes led to a Falcons field goal and a touchdown in a 26-13 upset.
Bisaccia knows all about Gosselin’s rankings. They will be one of the tools he uses in an attempt to get the players on his new team to cut down on the mistakes, become more consistent and find more ways to make a difference.