Raiders

Raiders rookie Johnny Townsend ready to continue team's punting tradition

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USATSI

Raiders rookie Johnny Townsend ready to continue team's punting tradition

ALAMEDA – Punter Johnny Townsend moved across the country for a new job, yet felt completely comfortable.

Kicker Eddy Piñeiro helped with that. The roommates and good friends at the University of Florida were both acquired by the Raiders, and seemed set to hold those positions for the Silver and Black.

Working together was second nature – Townsend’s also the holder – and the pairing certainly helped ease the transition to pro football. Townsend won’t have that on the field anymore. Piñeiro was placed on injured reserve before final cuts, meaning he’s done for the year. Then long snapper Andrew Paola was lost for the year after tearing an ACL on Monday.

Townsend is the lone specialist filling an expected role.

“I felt extremely comfortable when I got here because there was a familiar face in the kicking role with Eddy Piñeiro,” Townsend said on this week’s epispde of The Raiders Insider Podcast. “We developed a strong relationship with the long snapper and had a really clean, smooth operation. It’s never fun when you have to deal with injuries like this.

"Andrew DePaola is an incredible long snapper and showed me the ropes from the moment I got here. …We’re going to go out this week in practice and find a good rhythm with (new long snapper Trent Sieg) and our kicker.”

Townsend must establish and maintain stability on the punt team, and build off a solid showing in the regular-season opener.

His next opportunity comes Sunday at Denver, Townsend’s first game at extreme altitude. Thin air will give his punts a lift in a game that will draw comparisons between him and Marquette King, who was released this offseason and ended up in Denver.

Townsend is known as an excellent directional punter – his raw power has been questioned some, though he launched a deep one from near his own goal post Monday – a skill mastered over time with technique and attention to detail.

“It’s very technical,” Townsend said. “The difference between hitting a far, high punt and hitting one short is the matter of a quarter-, half-and-inch. Our operation from the snap to the time it’s kicked has to be 1.95 seconds or less. Everything happens so fast, with such a specific task you have to accomplish, it can be tough sometimes.”

The Raiders have faith Townsend can be a solid, long-term answer at punter. They’ve had a few in Marquette King, Shane Lechler and Hall-of-Famer Ray Guy. There’s a proud tradition at that spot, and Townsend hopes to join the ranks among the best and steadiest in franchise history.

“It can be tough because the spotlight’s on you,” Townsend said. “We’ve had so many tremendous punters come through this organization, so I’m going to try and fill the shoes as best I can and play at the best of my ability to help this team win.”

Raiders report card: Grading offense, defense in win over Cardinals

Raiders report card: Grading offense, defense in win over Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Raiders lost five straight by at least 14 points heading into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

They snapped that streak, and not just with a close loss.

The Raiders actually won. For real.

Derek Carr orchestrated his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback to help the Raiders beat the Cardinals 23-21 at State Farm Stadium.

We typically hand out Fs by the bushel in this space, but not tonight, my friends. Not tonight.

The Raiders were far from perfect, but still did several things well in this win. Here’s the report card from the Valley of the Sun.

[BAIR: Raiders wanted to win for fans impacted by California wildfires]

Rushing offense

The Raiders were committed to the run against the Cardinals, and it paid off in spades. Running backs Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Doug Martin rushed 33 times for 152 yards. That’s 4.6 yards per carry, a strong effort that gave the Raiders a balanced offense for once.

The offensive line opened holes and the backs burst right through them to keep the offense moving. Good job all around by the ground game.

Grade: A

Passing offense

Derek Carr didn’t pile up stats, but he completed passes at critical times. That was especially true on the game-winning field goal drive. He worked with the bottom of the depth chart, but still made plays with depth receivers Marcell Ateman and Seth Roberts, as well as Jared Cook.

The pass protection was spotty at best, and the entire operation needs to be cleaner. But, these guys got the job done when it counted Sunday.

Grade: B-minus

Rushing defense

After a terrible first drive, the Raiders did a solid job corralling star Cardinals running back David Johnson. All it takes, however, is one bad play to ruin a day. That came on a 55-yard run by Johnson that set up a go-ahead score with five minutes left.

In all, the Raiders allowed 154 yards on 31 carries, which will get you beat in most scenarios. Just not Sunday. 

Grade: D

Pass defense

The Raiders secondary delivered on Sunday with interceptions from defensive backs Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph. Both takeaways created great field position and resulted in Raiders touchdowns.

Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was awful, and completed only 9-of-20 passes for 136 yards thanks to errant throws and some solid coverage from the Raiders secondary.

Grade: A-minus

Special teams

Daniel Carlson nailed the first game-winning field goal of his career as time expired. That’s all you need to get an ‘A.’

The rookie from Auburn is coming on strong the past few weeks. He could be a long-term answer at kicker if he keeps this up.

Grade: A

Overall

A cynic would say the Raiders blew it by winning, hurting their draft position in an already lost season. That’s not how the players and coaches think. They wanted to win and were able to.

It might not happen much the rest of the year, so they have to bask in this victory.

Grade: A

Inside Raiders' final drive to complete comeback win over Cardinals

Inside Raiders' final drive to complete comeback win over Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals took a fourth-quarter lead with roughly five minutes left Sunday. Then they couldn’t do anything else offensively.

That gave the Raiders three cracks at a comeback. The first two attempts went nowhere, as a bad, ailing offense continued to sputter in crunch time.

No matter. The offense took the field considering the third time a charm.

Quarterback Derek Carr tried to ease tension before that must-win series, telling center Rodney Hudson to “protect it up. We’re just going to go play catch outside.”

The Raiders played pitch and catch well into field-goal range. where Daniel Carlson secured a 23-21 victory at State Farm Stadium with a 35-yard kick at the gun.

That's what they expected before the final drive started. Despite failing to consistently perform under pressure, the Raiders believed they would get the job done.

“We believed the outcome was never in doubt,” Carr said after his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback. “There have been times where we believed but didn’t win. … Everyone had that look in their eye, though it was a little different because, ‘Hey, this is probably our last chance.’ ”

Carr made it worthwhile.

He completed two short passes to get a first down, then spiked the ball to stop the clock. Carr saw Marcell Ateman break free down the left sideline on the next snap and, with no regard for the receiver's rookie status, sent the ball deep.

Ateman came up with a huge 32-yard catch that worked the Raiders into Cardinals territory -- in his NFL debut, no less.

“He made one heck of a catch, keeping his feet in,” Carr said. “For him to do that in his first start, his first game, with everything going against him. … He did his job, got to his landmark when I wanted him to be there, and it was all him. He made an excellent play, and got a game ball for it. It was awesome.”

[RELATED: Gruden, Carr not sweating their argument after Raiders' win]

An incompletion and a sack left Carr just 25 seconds to work with. He then correctly identified the defensive back covering Seth Roberts ready to blitz, and quickly got the ball out to his veteran receiver. Ateman and fellow rookie Saeed Blacknall blocked their cover guys well, allowing Roberts to zip 20 yards upfield.

Roberts didn’t get out of bounds, and the Raiders had zero timeouts, meaning Carr had to quickly spike the ball to set up Carlson’s field goal with two seconds left.

The rookie kicker nailed it, giving his team a much-needed win after five consecutive losses.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Carlson told reporters. “We kept chipping away, knowing eventually the rock was going to crack. It felt really good, really sweet to help make it happen.”