Raiders kicking competition 'nip and tuck' between Tavecchio and Piñeiro


Raiders kicking competition 'nip and tuck' between Tavecchio and Piñeiro

ALAMEDA – Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio is the only incumbent specialist left on the Raiders 2018 offseason roster.

Punter Marquette King got cut. Long snapper Jon Condo was allowed to walk out the front door. So was Sebastian Janikowski, the Raiders' kicker for 17 seasons until Tavecchio became his injury replacement last year.

Tavecchio had a solid 2017, but it didn’t guarantee his job. Undrafted rookie Eddy Piñeiro is charging hard for Tavecchio’s gig, with a real chance to win a kicking competition set to continue through the summer.

The Raiders nearly drafted Piñeiro, a raw, yet powerful talent who missed just one field goal attempt for the University of Florida last year. Instead they paid paid a hefty bonus to woo him as a free agent. Piñeiro seems to be the favorite for those reasons, despite Tavecchio’s incumbent status.

That would seem set to create some awkward moments between these kickers, but both guys called this competition friendly.

“I try to be the best person possible, too,” Tavecchio said. “I think for me, this is obviously a pretty intimate journey, so I don’t keep people out, I don’t try to beat people down. I’m here to serve. That’s my mentality. Directly or indirectly, I think I have transmitted a good amount to Eddy and I hope it’s all been positive.”

Piñeiro says Tavecchio has shared trade secrets and has been helpful to a lifelong soccer player with just two year’s football experience.

“Giorgio is a really good kicker, a really good guy,” Piñeiro said. “Learned a lot from him. It’s a good battle. He has a good leg, so do I. He’s accurate. It’s going to be fun.”

Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia has kickers alternating practice days – there was one exception, and another coming Thursday -- giving reps to one guy each time. That has helped the combatants and rookie punter/holder Johnny Townsend, who must set up attempts for a righty (Piñeiro) and a lefty (Tavecchio).

Townsend is working hard to help both kickers, and avoid perceived favoritism given the fifth-round played with Piñeiro at Florida. His past and present teammate has familiarity Tavecchio doesn’t have, but Townsend is working to make it a level playing field.

“There was no bias there, just being teammates with Eddy in college,” Townsend said. “I know there’s a kicker competition going on so each and every day we go out and compete and work to make each other better. That’s my mindset going through it.”

Coaches and reporters alike are counting makes a misses in each session, a practice that will carry on into training camp and at least some early preseason action.

“I believe we’ll go in through some of the preseason games for sure and give them both an opportunity to kick in game-like situations,” Bisaccia said. “We’ll try to create as many situations in practice as we possibly can and certainly when we get to pads. It’s a process and everything matters. … Right now, they’re nip and tuck.”

Raiders' Tyrell Williams hoping for more with foot injuries behind him


Raiders' Tyrell Williams hoping for more with foot injuries behind him

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the fibrous tissue -- the plantar fascia -- along the bottom of your foot. It connects your heel bone to your toes. The condition feels like your dogs are barking as if stuck in an oven at a toasty 450 degrees.

Tyrell Williams knows such pain. Literally. Figuratively. However you want to describe why his was a disappointing first season with the Raiders.

How ironic: Williams was signed as a No. 2 wide receiver last year and yet thrust into a leading role because of another pair of feet. Antonio Brown had frozen ones. Just another part of that guy’s bizarro world.

Read more on the Review-Journal

Raiders' Paul Guenther likens Maliek Collins to All-Pro Geno Atkins

Raiders' Paul Guenther likens Maliek Collins to All-Pro Geno Atkins

Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has overseen some dominant defensive players over his nearly two decades in the NFL.

Over his four seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator, Guenther got to work with two-time All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins on a daily basis. Atkins, who was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s, reminds Guenther of one of the Raiders' offseason additions in free agency.

“I’ve been around Geno Atkins a long time in his career. Maliek reminds me a lot of Geno Atkins,” Guenther told reporters Thursday from Raiders training camp (h/t RaidersWire). “He might be our best acquisition of the offseason from what I’ve seen. He’s been tremendous. Obviously with (Raiders defensive line coach) Rod Marinelli here, he coached the defensive line in Dallas, he showed the guys what Rod is teaching them. He’s tremendous with the younger players, teaching them the techniques, he’s very fast, got his weight down, he’s in great shape. He is the prototypical three-technique that we’re looking for in this defense.”

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Collins joins Las Vegas after four years with the Dallas Cowboys, the organization that drafted him in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Collins finished 2019 with four sacks and 20 total tackles.

Atkins has made his money absolutely dominating the interior of the defensive line, something Collins excelled at during his time in Dallas. The Raiders got a strong rookie season from Maxx Crosby, but were in major need of an interior pass rush.

If Guenther already is impressed enough to compare Collins to a player who has accumulated three double-digit sack seasons over his career, Raiders fans should be eager for Collins to take the field in the silver and black.

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