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


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 training camp questions: Can Antonio Brown set new standard?

Raiders training camp questions: Can Antonio Brown set new standard?

Antonio Brown talked a good game at his Raiders introductory press conference. He vowed to set a new standard within the Silver and Black as a prime example of work ethic and accountability and, of course, by putting up crazy stats often under pressure.

He only has been through an offseason program since being traded from Pittsburgh, without much chance to back all that up. He has been excellent in spring opportunities to do so, showing great work ethic in private, behind closed doors as he does so often on social media.

The man practices so hard and so fast on every play that receivers can’t help but notice. He talks serious trash during drills, but has gained the respect of Raiders cornerbacks by helping them at times and always raising the level of competition.

Fans attending Raiders training camp in Napa starting this week will see incredible work rate firsthand.

He’s steady, dynamic and shockingly durable, the first Raiders offensive superstar since Jon Gruden’s previous head-coaching stint.

Superstars produce. If healthy, Brown will do that even in heavy coverage. He has six consecutive seasons with at least 101 receptions, 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns, all of them played with the spotlight shining bright. He has had more than 100 catches, 1,499 and 12 touchdowns in half of those years.

The best superstars also lead. That’s what Brown said he wants to do here. That effort ramps up in training camp. He shouldn’t play much, if at all, in the preseason. Risking his health is foolish in meaningless games. He should push his teammates, and his quarterback to be better throughout this summer stint in Napa.

Brown is eccentric. Lots of players are. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if the leadership by example trend continues and he helps elevate teammates by more than just drawing coverage.

The main question from now on is that effort’s sustainability through training camp’s dog days. And, what if the Raiders stumble out of the gate and struggle mightily through a grueling schedule? How will he react then? What if Carr struggles some finding Brown as well or as often as he did with the Steelers? While it didn’t end well with the Steelers, Pittsburgh never finished below .500 while Brown was there, and averaged 10.4 wins per season. We simply don’t know how he’d adapt to steady losing if that happens because he hasn’t been through it as a pro.

[RELATED: Five incredibly bold predictions for 2019 Raiders season]

Brown will set a new standard for work rate and production around here, but maintaining it through tough times might be equally important.

Is Derek Carr too sensitive? Raiders QB bashed by NFL coaches, exec

Is Derek Carr too sensitive? Raiders QB bashed by NFL coaches, exec

Derek Carr is entering a critical season in his second year under Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. It could be make-or-break for the QB as the Silver and Black head into their final season in Oakland. 

After looking like an MVP candidate in 2016, Carr has been trending down in the eyes of many. The Athletic's Mike Sando presented his Quarterback Tiers survey Monday after talking with 55 anonymous coaches and executives who rank the QBs from Tier 1 to Tier 5. 

Carr was voted into Tier 3 as the No. 20 overall quarterback, one spot behind 49ers starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo. And the comments on the Raiders' signal-caller aren't too pretty. 

Voters brought up three specific plays that show the kind of quarterback Carr was last season. One was him throwing the ball away on fourth down, another example was him looking scared in the final minutes of the Raiders' Week 8 loss to the Colts, but the final example is what really stands out. 

“The Chiefs game, he throws a pick-six and the guy (Jared Cook) isn’t even running the route. It was, ‘What the f--k?" the voter said to Sando.

Carr's ability to handle Gruden's style has been questioned ever since Chucky signed his 10-year deal with the Raiders. Through one season, those questions aren't going away. 

“He is sensitive and needs encouragement, and that is not the style he is going to get,” an offensive coach said to Sando. “When someone shows disappointment in him, he shrinks. The head coach not coming out and completely endorsing him has to be eating him alive."

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for upcoming Raiders season]

If the Raiders endure another losing season and Carr doesn't significantly improve, he could be looking for another job when the team moves to Las Vegas next year. It sounds like plenty of people around the league believe that could be the case.