Season review: Raiders specialists


Season review: Raiders specialists

Oakland's specialists -- specifically placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, punter Shane Lechler and long snapper Jon Condo -- were the Raiders' one constant this past season. Not only were they they most valuable players on the team, they were the most dangerous at their positions in the AFC, if not the most dependable in the NFL.
Grade: A-SPECIALISTSSebastian Janikowski -- Has it really been 11 years since so much ridicule was heaped upon Al Davis and the Raiders for taking a wild-child placekicker with a first-round draft pick? Things could not have gone more swimmingly for the man known as 'SeaBass' in his 12th NFL season. Two years into the four-year, 16-million contract, with 9 million guaranteed, that made him the highest-paid kicker in the history of the game, Janikowski had perhaps his finest season and was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl invite. It all began on opening night in Denver, when he ended the first half by tying the NFL record for longest field goal with his 63-yarder. And it continued throughout, even as a strained left hamstring slowed him and forced him to miss a game for the first time since 2001. Janikowski's 129 points were the second-most of his career and the 10 field goals he attempted from at least 50 yards led the league. He was 31-of 35 on his field-goal attempts, with all four misses coming from beyond 40 yards. Two of the four were blocked, including a 65-yard attempt against Detroit. Janikowski has long been known as having the strongest leg in the game -- the Raiders are in scoring position seemingly once they cross midfield -- but now his accuracy from distance is being recognized as well. His 88.6 percent conversion rate on field goals was the third-highest of his career. And while he started off booming kickoffs out of the end zone with regularity, his strained hamstring slowed that roll.Shane Lechler -- Janikowski's draft classmate -- Lechler was taken in the fifth round in 2000 -- has long been seen as one of the top punters in NFL history. And his booming punts continued throughout his 12th season. He had a 77-yard punt to tie a franchise record on opening night in Denver. Then, he went right after Chicago's Devin Hester 10 games later and dropped an 80-yard punt on him. In between, Lechler, who is also Janikowski's holder, threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss on a fake field goal against Cleveland. Lechler's 50.8-yards per punt average was the second-highest of his career, behind his 51.1 average in 2009, and it was second in the league to the 49ers' Andy Lee, who finished with a 50.9 average. And while Lechler's 40.9 net average was only fifth in the league, it was hurt because he sometimes out-punted his coverage; two of his punts were returned for TDs, a 90-yarder by Denver's Eric Decker in the opener and an 85-yarder by Eddie Royal in the return game. Lechler, who will be entering the final season of his four-year, 16-million deal, with 9 million guaranteed, may have been edged out by Lee for All-Pro, but he was invited to his seventh Pro Bowl.Jon Condo -- The unsung hero of the specialists. Nothing happens without the long snapper making it happen, right? And with both Janikowski and Lechler headed to Honolulu, Condo should get invited to the NFL's all-star game as well, no? Well, he's already made one Pro Bowl game, two years ago, but no one would complain if he got a return call. His perfectly-placed snaps enabled Janikowski to tie the mark for longest field goal and for Lechler's franchise-record 80-yard punt. Plus, Condo is often one of the first down on punt coverage. Really, only one of his snaps seemed off this season, and that was the high one against Detroit, when Janikowski lined up to attempt a game-winning 65-yard field goal that was blocked. Other than that, he makes the kickers look good, and vice-versa.

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has been charged with assault, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday.

The charge is for assault of his sister's boyfriend in Smith's hometown of Pasadena. Smith allegedly beat and stomped the boyfriend's head on the morning of July 4, 2017 in Old Town Pasadena, the district attorney said.

Smith faces formal felony counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury to the victim.

The 30-year old plans to fight the charges levied against him. 

"Sean maintains his innocence at this time," Smith's attorney, Daniel Rosenberg told NBC Sports Califorinia on Thursday evening. "We are going to be entering a plea of not guilty and fighting these charges."

A warrant was filed on Aug. 16. Smith's arriagnment is scheduled for Sept. 29. 

Smith was not present at Thursday's Raiders practice, the last session of training camp. He surrendered to Los Angeles County authorities, posted an $80,000 bond and has been released from custody.

If convicted as charged, Smith could face a maximum sentence of seven years in California prison. 

A Raiders spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case is still under investigation by the Pasadena Police Department. 

This is another blow in a rough summer for Smith. He has struggled on the practice field during training camp and faces an off-field legal issue. Smith is guaranteed $9.5 million for the 2017 season. 

More to come...

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

NAPA – Marshawn Lynch spoke with the media Thursday for the second time as a Raider. He was quick-witted, disarming and, as always, not suitable for work.

It was five minutes of peak Marshawn, where he brought light to his charitable endeavors, called himself the “daddy” of his position group and cleverly sidestepped all things nation anthem.

He was asked four questions on other topics before elephant in the room was mentioned. It didn’t stick around long.

“I think the elephant left the room because a little mouse ran in here,” Lynch deadpanned. “Didn’t they say elephants are scared of mice or something? That [expletive] left the room, cousin.”

[RATTO: Lynch reminds media how much control he exerts over any interaction]

Two more related questions came down the pike. The first was about Del Rio letting players be themselves. He answered a different question instead.

“Yeah, because on ‘doctor-24,’ it’s a designed way that you’re supposed to run it but I have all freedom to go any way that I choose to run it,” Lynch said. “I would say, yes.”

The final anthem-esque query was deflected in a similar fashion.

“When we run ‘74’ or something like that, where I have to scan and read on both sides, that is pretty difficult. For the most part, I’m a veteran so I can make it work.”

Two things were crystal clear after speaking with Lynch.

He didn’t miss football one bit during his year in retirement. Lynch said this spring he decided to return after the Raiders were approved to relocate away from his native Oakland. He wants to represent his hometown well and give them something to cheer before the team leaves for Las Vegas.

That’s why he’s fired up even for Saturday’s exhibition against the Rams – he’s expected to make a cameo in that game – his first in Oakland wearing silver and black.

“It’s truly a blessing and just to have the opportunity to go and do that is a good [expletive] feeling,” Lynch said. “It’s a good [expletive] feeling.”

Lynch has always been active in the community, and hopes him playing here will bring more visibility to what’s being done to help kids in Oakland.

“I plan on continuing to do what I do in the community,” Lynch said. “It’ll probably be that now that I’m here, more people that are in the community might actually come out and support what it is that we’ve got going on.”