Oakland Raiders End of Season Evaluation: Kickers

The 2016 season was a wild one for the Oakland Raiders. They finally evolved from punchline to promising, and the future looks bright for the Silver and Black. However, now that the season is over, it’s time to reflect on the season that was. The Last Word On Pro Football Raiders department will be breaking down each position group over the next couple of weeks. Today, the topic of conversation is the kickers.

Oakland Raiders End of Season Evaluation: Kickers

Overall, a solid performance from our two kicking specialists, although not without important questions at both positions. On the one hand, we have the record-setting grizzly vet Sebastian Janikowski. On the other, the sudden-superstar punter Marquette King. Both had good seasons, well supported by the wider special teams crew.

The wider performance on special teams is worth note, as it has radically improved under Jack Del Rio. Coverage gave up just 1 touchdown on special teams all season. Jalen Richard looked shifty on punt return duty. And whilst King deserves a lot of credit for the 34 punts he got inside the 20 yard line, that success is also down to the wider team – unselfish players like Andre Holmes and Bryden Trawick – getting downfield to ground the ball. So, within the context of a general improvement in special teams, how did our two kickers fare?

Ride The Pony

This was a breakout season for the high-spirited Marquette King. Whilst his off-field antics brought him media attention, it was only because he was kicking so well that anyone noticed in the first place. From showing up to practice dressed as the green Power Ranger, to asking the former President of the United States for a beer over Twitter, King has come to represent the 21st century version of the outsider spirit of the Raiders.

And when you’re playing well, you can do what you like. No one minds the punter doing a dance when he’s helping the team win. The question for King is can he stay focussed on his performance amongst the increased media attention. It’s all good spending the bye week appearing on Good Morning Football, or even been linked romantically to a Kardashian, as long as the performance is still there. It felt like King’s play dropped off significantly in the last few games. Against the Texans there were a number of short or shanked kicks, which is not what we’ve come to expect from him. Spending the off-season focussing back on the talents that got him here would help King for next season.

Record-Setting Seabass

Is it possible for a kicker to ever justify a first round selection? Sebastian Janikowski was famously the Raiders first pick in the draft in 2000, only the forth placekicker ever selected in round one. Whilst I challenge you to name the other three, Seabass might well have done enough over his career to have lived up to expectations. His 2016 performance – incredibly his 17th with the team – was another solid performance.

His kickoffs were as consistent as ever, an opposition return average of under 20 yards (for the first time in his career) pointing to better overall special teams play. Inside 50 yards he was almost perfect, missing only one kick from 27 attempts.

However, he missed two extra points, and made only three of eight attempts from over 50 yards. The long-distance kicking skills he made his name with seem as if they might be diminishing. Janikowski has already etched himself into Raider history, and I expect to see him back in 2017. But that’s the final year of his contract. It might also be the final year he spends with the silver and black.

Overall Kicking Grade

Special teams has been a strength of the resurgent Raiders. Better coverage, better returns, accurate punting and kicking. However, there is still clear room for improvement, so I’m going to give them a B+. King still needs to find consistency throughout the whole season, and show that his new-found fame is not getting in the way of the skills that brought him it. Janikowski needs to improve his long-distance accuracy. At 38 years of age, there’s also the question of how long he can keep turning back time. Still, I expect both to return next year and help to improve what is already a strength for the Raiders.