Raiders Special on Punt Coverage

With an increased role on offense, the Vikings might limit Mewelde Moore's punt returns. Whoever is returning punts against the Raiders should know the success one of the league's best punters had last week against the league's most dangerous return man.

Shane Lechler is in a good mood these days, and that was even before his punts helped the Raiders bottle up the NFL's premiere kick returner.

He got so excited after his return team pinned Devin Hester at the 5-yard line before the half Lechler did something he can't remember doing before.

Rather than lay back in case of a return man breaks free, Lechler raced downfield and was at the pile when Hester was brought down.

"It's probably been seven or eight years ... actually, I don't think I've ever ran down to the actual area of the tackle," Lechler said. "I was excited. That was a big play for us and our guys put in an extreme amount of work. We studied the guy, and we knew how dangerous she was. It was a fight all day for us."

Hester, averaging 19.6 yards per return, gained 1.5 against the Raiders. Lechler's net punting average was 46.6.

Lechler, in his eighth season, is averaging 49.9 yards per punt (St. Louis' Donnie Jones and San Francisco's Andy Lee are averaging 50.0) and still has in the back of his mind he'd like to finish above 50.

More important, Lechler leads the NFL with a net average of 44.5

"He's had great averages over the years, so it was more about net and pinning them deep instead of touchbacks," coach Lane Kiffin said. "His touchback percentage is way down, which has been huge to help us create long fields."

So far this season, Lechler has put 15 punts inside the 20-yard-line with only two touchbacks. Last season, he had 19 punts inside the 20 and 19 touchbacks — the worst ratio of his career.

"It was a huge goal of mine to keep it under 10 this year," Lechler said of touchbacks. "I went 19 last year which was pathetic."

Lechler conceded that part of the problem was frustration. He clashed with special teams coach Ted Daisher immediately and admitted, "I took a lot of frustration out on the ball. I know how much the defense appreciates it when we knock the ball down at the five or inside the 10."

One of Lechler's only touchbacks was a 70-yard bomb against Tennessee. His career long is a 73-yard punt in 2003, but the punt against the Titans was special. It sailed more than 80 yards in the air and temporarily silenced a sellout crowd.

"I knew where it was going as soon as it left my foot," Lechler said. "To get the oohs and ahs of an opposing stadium is kind of cool. The returner just kind of jogged to the sideline. He didn't even watch it."


  • QB Josh McCown didn't look anywhere near 100 percent, but he practiced Thursday and is in the running to back up Daunte Culpepper on Sunday in Minnesota. If he isn't ready, JaMarcus Russell will be No. 2.

  • WR Jerry Porter was limited in practice with a knee injury but is expected to face Minnesota.

  • CB Fabian Washington practiced for the second consecutive day and should resume his role as the nickel corner.

  • CB Nnamdi Asomugha was limited in practice but Kiffin said he expects his No. 1 cornerback to face the Vikings.

  • DE Derrick Burgess, who has two sacks in his last three games, is probably at 80 percent effectiveness with a lingering calf injury, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.

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