Scott Bair's Raiders Breakdown: Specialists
Joshua Cribbs brings a dynamic element to the return game the Raiders lacked last season. (AP)
Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 24, with the first practice day scheduled for July 26. Today, Scott focuses on the specialists.
Who they have: K Sebastian Janikowski, P Chris Kluwe, P Marquette King, LS Jon Condo, KR/PR Josh Cribbs, PR Phillip Adams, KR Coye Francies.
Who they lost: P Shane Lechler, PR Mike Goodson.
Looking back: Lechler wasn’t his typical dominant self in his final year as a Raider. He finished tenth with 47.2 yards per punt and placed just 21 attempts inside the opposing 20. It was the 13th and final year in Oakland for Lechler, long considered the NFL’s best punter. Janikowski converted a career-best 91.2 percent of his field-goal attempts, including nine from 50 yards and beyond. Adams didn’t do much as a punt returner and Francies and Goodson were average returning kicks.
Overall outlook: As a return man, Cribbs is a home-run hitter. He has the ability to return punts and kicks for touchdowns, as he’s done 11 times in his career. He brings a dynamic element to the kicking game the Raiders lacked last season. Cribbs will be the primary return man when healthy but, with four return touchdowns to his credit, Ford will get his chances. Kluwe was brought in from Minnesota to replace Lechler, and has a successful track record that should help him win the job. King was placed on injured reserve last season after he signed a 3-year deal as a college free agent, but Kluwe's presence puts his job in jeopardy. Janikowski enters a contract year as one of the NFL’s most consistent kickers, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Camp competition: These jobs are basically settled. Ford must prove he can handle part-time return duties without risking his health. The injury-prone receiver is an important part of the offense, while Cribbs won’t carry as big an offensive load. With Cribbs as an option, jeopardizing Ford’s health might be too risky. King will challenge Kluwe with a powerful, Lechler-like leg during the preseason. Both will get opportunities, but the veteran should win out with a decent camp.
In-line image of Chris Kluwe provided by the Associated Press