Programming note: The Raiders 2012 season preview show debuts tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast Sportsnet California!
The return game, both in punts and kickoff returns, has long been a strength in the Raiders' history.This preseason, though, through three exhibition games? Not so much.Not when the Raiders are averaging just 4.4 yards per punt return and a mere 14.2 yards on kickoff returns."It's obviously a concern," said first-year Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "We've got to be better in that area."It's easy enough to cast a glance at new special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman, especially after the success the Raiders enjoyed under previous special teams coach John Fassel, who now plies his trade in St. Louis.But that would be too simplistic, no?Still, under "Coach Bones," who ran the Raiders' special teams the previous three years, the kickoff return game especially thrived the past two years. Jacoby Ford returned three kicks for touchdowns as a rookie in 2010 and another in 2011.Before injuring his left foot in Arizona, Ford returned four exhibition kickoffs for 70 yards with a long of 24 yards. He also added punt-return duties this year and returned two for six yards.RELATED: Jacoby Ford could miss regular season time with sprained foot
The problem, obviously, goes beyond Ford."Different people playing different positions," Allen said. "Different returners. We really haven't had any continuity. But at the same time, execute better. One or two guys that keep you from having a good play and you're tackled inside your 15(-yard line)."Consider: Bryan McCann has returned three punts for 12 yards and DeAundre Muhammad two punt returns for 12 yards, his long a 12-yarder at Arizona.On kickoff returns, Taiwan Jones returned a pair for 56 yards against Detroit on Saturday, with a long of 20 yards, though he only advanced it to the 13-yard line because he ran it out from seven yards deep in the end zone."I probably should have kept that in," Jones said with a laugh. "I was just excited. My first time getting out there, really since last year, and I was just anxious."McCann has two returns for 27 yards, Mike Goodson two for 22 yards, Lonyae Miller one for 17 yards and Muhammad one for none."We're closer than what the stats say," Allen said, "but we've got to be better in that regard."