Through three games in the NFL this season, 4th Down units have been under some pressure. Week 2 was one of the statistically worst weeks in NFL history for field goal kickers. Week 4 is on the horizon and we are going to look at the Raiders specialists so far through the first three games of the season and how they are performing compared to the rest of the league. We are also going to look at part of the revolving door that can happen with a kicker if an injury occurs.
Mike Nugent – Field Goal and Kickoff Kicker
Mike Nugent (placed on IR on Wednesday) is a 14-year vet in the league and has seen his fair share of stints with teams (last year alone he played for the Bears and Cowboys). Nonetheless, he is a consistent kicker who has put together a decent start to the year.
Given the Raiders are in a situation where the offense isn’t really clicking, the specialists are playing a big role. So far just looking at field goals for Nugent, he was 6-of-6 on the season with a 52 yarder being his longest. Three of his kicks are from the 20-29 range while two are from 40-49 range and has one kick past the 50 (the 52-yarder).
Looking at extra points, Nugent is sitting at 4-of-5 with that missed kick as a block. Ultimately score-wise, this caused the Raiders to lose by one point against the Broncos.
There are a lot of things that play a factor into a losing but, this kick was early on in the game where the team hypothetically could/should have bounced back. Going back to the kick though, with it being blocked that most of the time not on the kicker.
Although his stats sound nice, Nugent suffered a hip injury and was placed on injured reserve. This immediately impacts the specialists unit because the long snapper, holder, and new kicker have to work on the operation time and generate that chemistry to make the kicks seem seamless.
Oakland worked out five different kickers including last season’s kicker, Giorgio Tavecchio. Ultimately, the team decided to go with Matt McCrane, a rookie out of Kansas State. During the preseason McCrane was with the Arizona Cardinals going 4-for-4 and connecting on 54 and 53-yard field goals.
This is a great situation for McCrane being put in a system with a rookie long snapper and a rookie punter Johnny Townsend. If this unit sees success and sticks around, they will develop that chemistry that makes a specialist unit even better.
Johnny Townsend – Punter
The rookie from Florida is about the bottom-middle of the pack when looking at punting stats this year. Through three games it is hard to get a gauge on the stats since there isn’t much to compare to. Townsend sits 26th statistically with the NFL when it comes to punting.
Three games in and he has only punted eleven times (compared to another rookie who is leading punting Michael Dickson who has punted twenty-one times). Townsend’s yards are sitting at 479 yards with a net yard of 446.
Townsend’s longest on the season is sitting at 56 yards, with an average of 43.5 yards, and a net average 40.5 yards. He has landed three of his punts within the 20 which is pretty good for only having eleven kicks and only a total of 13 for his return yards.
Statistically, Townsend sits at 26th but, with how he is performing (even for a rookie) it isn’t that bad. Being in the position that he is in right now is interesting though. Fast forwarding through the season he could be a top 10 punter in the league. His average on punts isn’t long but that plays into the field position that his given as well.
Overall, the Raiders aren’t bad when it comes to special teams. But field position plays a big part in it. With placing Nugent on IR, it sets things back a little bit.
Week 4 can be a complete hit or miss for the special teams unit. Expect to see Townsend to maintain his recent progress while McCrane can have a great or miserable week.
Kicking has a big piece of mental attitude behind it regardless of skill (paging Chris Boswell this year) so if McCrane comes in with a relaxed yet focused mindset, he can be primed for a great season in a Oakland system that hasn’t produced many points.
Throughout the weeks we will keep an eye out for their specialist units and see how they perform. But it is easy to say that throughout three weeks in the NFL the number one punter is the rookie from the University of Texas by way of Australia, Dickson.
On the other side for field goals, there are a couple of mentions. Justin Tucker is always consistent and this year is no different. However, if you go by field goals made, Robbie Gould is leading the league currently at 8-of-8.
The best this season has to be between Tucker or Adam Vinatieri (who is on the verge of setting the NFL record this week on most made field goals). Taking into account the lengths of the field goals that they have made. It is still early in the season but we are starting to see things develop in the season and by Week 5 or 6 we should have a good read on who the best field goal kicker will be.