Perhaps, the best way to prevent Dante Hall from returning a kickoff or punt for a touchdown is to fine your kickers.
Well, maybe not.
Nevertheless, it may be an idea for the Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler not to kick the ball remotely near Hall when they host the Kansas City Chiefs (6-0) Monday night.
The Raiders (2-4) have been spotty in their coverage units but to no fault of Janikowski and Lechler. This week, they get the chore of trying to do what few teams have done recently – slow down Hall. The Chiefs' electrifying return man has already tied an NFL season record by returning four kicks for touchdowns.
Oakland is allowing opponents to return kickoffs past the 27-yard line, 11th in the league. On the punt coverage side, opponents average 13.5 yards, a pretty healthy number. Hall, who has returned two kickoffs and two punts for scores, averages 28. 7 and 22.9 yards, respectively. Hall, however, downplayed the notion that he was licking his chops to face the Raiders.
"Yeah but at the same time teams tend to do different things against us," Hall said in a conference call Thursday. "You have to prepare that they're going top do things different because of the success that we've had."
Lechler was a teammate of Hall when the two played together at Texas A&M.
"He returned kicks a few times for us but not very many because he was our tailback," Lechler said. "He always seemed to make big plays. He's always been elusive. It just took him a couple of years to adjust."
It took Hall a few years to find his niche but that appears to be the case now.
"I think it's all god-given and instincts really," Hall said. "Since junior high, high school or college, I've never worked on practicing instincts. It just naturally happens on the field."
The last time Oakland faced a return game as potent as Kansas City was in last January's divisional playoff game against the New York Jets, a game the Raiders won 30-10. The Jets sported a potent return game with Chad Morton and Santana Moss running back kickoffs and punts respectively.
On kickoffs, Janikowski mostly kicked line drives or groundballs and limited New York to 127 yards on seven returns while Moss did not return a punt.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com