Covering the Raiders affords me the opportunity to watch a Raider that is arguably the best at his position.
That player would be Shane Lechler.
I forgave him for saying he would burn anything with "Cal" on it before the Bears knocked around Texas A&M in the 2006 Holiday Bowl because he's always great to deal with.
Lechler will play in the Pro Bowl this weekend. He had a great season that was aided by special teams coordinator Brian Schneider’s coaching.
Lechler’s 41.1 net average led the NFL with players like Jarrod Cooper, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Ricky Brown, Hiram Eugene and Jon Condo making a lot of tackles to help Lechler’s stats.
The next the Raiders need to take is elevating the rest of special teams to the standard Lechler has established.
It is unlikely Sebastian Janikowski will ever do anything to justify being a first-round pick. As seems to be the case with Jano every season, Janikowski was pretty good, except for a stretch early in the season.
But anything short of making every kick will draw the ire of fans.
The Raiders need to figure out how to be more productive in the return game. Fans should have Dec. 28, 2003 etched into their memories when it comes to return futility.
The day is best remembered as Bill Callahan’s last game as coach. But it’s also when Doug Gabriel (kickoff) and Phillip Buchanon (punt) both had return for scores.
The Raiders haven’t had a return for a score since.
This is another area where I think Lane Kiffin erred in not playing a rookie.
I had no problem with Kiffin opting for Chris Carr on kickoffs, but to not allow Johnnie Lee Higgins more opportunities was a mistake.
I know he fumbled, but he was a rookie and mistakes come with that. Higgins ball security needs improvement, which will come with more returns, not sitting behind Tim Dwight.
With their coverage teams solid and kicker and punter set, becoming consistent in returning punts and kickoffs is the last step for the Raider to establish themselves among the best special teams units in the NFL.
Chad, Chad, Chad
I would love for Chad Johnson to end up with the Raiders.
So far in his comical campaign to get out of Cincinnati, Johnson has mentioned the Raiders, Redskins, Dolphins and Patriots (am I missing anyone?) as places he’d like to play in 2008 without every saying "trade me."
I know most of you caught Ocho Cinco campaigning to join the Raiders with Kirk Morrison last week.
Johnson would add personality and give the Raiders a legitimate No. 1 receiver for JaMarcus Russell.
The Bengals insist there will be no Johnson trade. But I’m officially joining the bring Chad to Oakland Committee.
Not that I know of such a group, but I’m sure one will pop up soon.