Training camp outlook: Special teams

This is one story in a series that looks at the Oakland Raiders, who report for training camp on July 29 in Napa, CA, by position. Today, silverandblack.com takes a look at special teams:

One would be hard-pressed to find a better kicker-punter combination than Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler for the Oakland Raiders, who had their share of special teams problems but those two should not be lumped in such a category.

Janikowski made good on 22-of-25 field goal attempts but has been surprisingly inconsistent in terms of his depth on kickoffs. Lechler was by far the AFC's best punter with a 46.3 gross average.

Punt returner Phillip Buchanon is a dynamite returner. Buchanon has had his share of problems as a cornerback but has generated many big plays in this area.

The two areas to address, however, are kickoff returner and coverage units – especially the latter. The battles for the kickoff return spot figures to bear watching. Doug Gabriel finished the season strong and has continued to impress but will have to fight off challenges from newly acquired Chris Cole, Alvis Whitted and Justin Fargas.

The coverage units ranked at or near the bottom of every category and as a result cost position coach Bob Casullo his job. Joe Avezzano, who was a successful special teams coach with the Dallas Cowboys, replaced Casullo and is likely to have no tolerance for lack of effort and discipline.


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