Of course, time will tell if their continued development is going to come to fruition. The Raiders named Ronald Curry the No. 3 receiver behind starters Jerry Porter and Jerry Rice but Gabriel is doing more to help his cause. Granted, Curry has not hurt his cause but three long touchdown catches in three preseason games is hard to overlook.
The Raiders drafted Gabriel last year in the fifth round from Central Florida. Gabriel plated sparingly as a receiver, catching one pass for 17 yards. He was a big factor as a kickoff returner, averaging 22.3 yards per return on 29 attempts.
Gabriel had a strong finish to last season. He returned a kickoff 71 yards to set up a field goal in a 20-12 loss to Baltimore. Gabriel also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in a 21-14 loss to San Diego in the regular season finale. Gabriel and Francis, a fourth round pick from Texas Tech, figure to keep battling for the kickoff return job but Francis' 86-yard return for a score against San Francisco helped his cause.
Special teams coverage closer to living up to name
The Raiders special teams coverage units looked more like the expectedly improved product under special teams coach Joe Avezzano, who replaced Bob Casullo.
On Saturday, the Raiders gave up just 21.6 yards on three kickoffs and 6.5 yards on two punts after giving up big returns against San Francisco and Dallas.
Under Avezzano, the Raiders have been spent as much as 45 minutes on special teams per practice session. In fact, Avezzano has been breaking down literally every detail.
Casullo coached the Raiders special teams for four seasons. Oakland's special teams units were solid in 2000, inconsistent in 2001-2002 and horrible in 2003. Last in year training camp, the Raiders spent roughly 10 minutes on special teams.