After a below average year on special teams in 2012, the Oakland Raiders acknowledged the issue this offseason. General manager Reggie McKenzie has brought in return man Josh Cribbs and punter Chris Kluwe to improve the unit. These additions along with the return of Jacoby Ford should provide an immediate upgrade to last season's stagnant special team's play.
Cribbs has the potential to make the greatest impact. His eight kickoff return touchdowns and three punt return touchdowns put him in the conversation as one of the best return men in the NFL. Last season the Raiders were forced to settle for average returning after Ford was lost for the season with a foot injury. His replacements combined for no touchdown returns and rarely impacted the game with field position. Now Ford and Cribbs, who have combined for 15 return touchdowns, have the opportunity for game changing plays on special teams. The Raiders offense will be a question mark heading into next season, so if Cribbs and Ford can provide a spark in the return game it helps them immensely.
It was a difficult decision for the Raiders to let Shane Lechler walk in free agency this offseason to the Houston Texans. He provided the team with 13 stellar years as one of the best punters the NFL has ever seen. Twice he averaged over 50 yards per punt in his career. Now the Raiders pass the torch to Kluwe and Marquette King. King showed his big leg in the preseason a year ago. Kluwe punted for eight years for the Minnesota Vikings and 44.4 career average. Whoever comes out on top of the punting competition this offseason, the Raiders can be confident with the result.
Sebastian Janikowski remains in the argument as the best kicker in the NFL today. Over the last two seasons, he has made 62 of 69 fields including an NFL record tying blast from 63 yards out. The former first round pick has provided the Raiders with confidence that they can get three points once they cross the opponents' 40 yard line.
With the additions of Cribbs and Kluwe to pair with Janikowski, the Raiders specials teams took a step forward this offseason. Often overlooked, special teams play impacts the game and the Raiders bolstered it for the 2013 campaign.
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