Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

July 20, 2008
Getting the most out of Jano's kicks

After the rocky relationship special teams coach Ted Daisher had with just about everyone on the Raiders roster in 2006, Brian Schneider was like a cool drink of water on hot day.

The Raiders coverage units were much improved. Shane Lechler punted his way to another Pro Bowl.

Now it's time for Schneider, who replaced Daisher last year, to work his magic with Sebastian Janikowski.

In some ways, this is an impossible task.

Aside from making every field goal and putting every kickoff in the endzone, there's probably nothing Janikowski will ever do to justify being a first-round pick.

What Janikowski can be is consistent.

With the Raiders likely to rely a lot on the running game and playing with a quarterback with limited experience, Janikowski will probably have to boot a few 50 yarders for the Raiders to win games and hope Mike Shanahan isn't around to call timeouts.

Janikowski hasn't gotten close to topping the 89.3 percent of field goals he made back in 2004. His best since that career year was 72 percent.

That needs to be closer to 80 percent in 2008. Janikowski was solid on kickoffs. He tied his career-best 22 touchbacks. The 22.5 average allowed on kickoffs tied the second lowest average of his career.

He averaged 65.1 yards per kickoff, second best of his career.

So it's evident Schneider has helped Janikowski. But the area everyone cares most about is field goals made.

That's where Janikowski must be at his best because until the offense clicks, he might be the best offense.

Special teams preview:

Lechler: The game's best punter.

: Will Lane Kiffin ask him to make kicks from more than 60 yards?

PR Johnnie Lee Higgins: Showed flashes of being able to be a good punt returner. He also showed a habit of fumbling on returns, too. The job is his if he can hold on to the ball.

KR Tyvon Branch: This job might be Higgins' to start, but Branch should get a chance to win the job as a rookie. He was one of the nation's best at UConn last year. He will also have a chance to be a gunner on punt coverage.

S Jarrod Cooper
: The emotional leader of the special teams. He's an aggressive tackler that thrives on the coverage units as a gunner. When he went down with a knee injury, the punt coverage suffered and Lechler had punts returned for touchdowns against him for the first time in his career.

LB Isaiah Ekejiuba
: Another leader on special teams that can go overlooked. Extremely smart and understands where he needs to be at all times.

LS Jon Condo: Didn't hear a whole lot about him last year and that's a good thing. He was a linebacker in college and that made him an asset in covering punts.

Another safety? reported the Raiders will meet with veteran safety Greg Wesley who was recently released by Kansas City.

That would fall in line with what Kiffin likes to do. Bring in a player for competition's sake and see what happens.

He's played free and strong safety.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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