Johnny Townsend and his cohort Eddy Pineiro could not have landed in a better spot than in Oakland. The Florida Gator punter-kicker combo head to a Raiders squad preaching competition. Moreover, if both are on point, could continue their impressive tag team in the NFL.
Scratch could. Let us replace could with a much stronger word — will.
Townsend and Pineiro must seize the opportunity afforded to them and become the special team tandem in Oakland. The duo gives each other the best chance of making an NFL squad.
Townsend, taken in the fifth round of the draft, jumps into a competition for punting duties with incumbent rookie Colby Wadman. It is the battle of the big bopper (Townsend led the nation the last two years in gross average) and the technician (Wadman is a directional punter with an average leg).
The Raiders affinity for big-legged kickers is going strong and new special teams boss and Gruden’s top lieutenant Rich Bisaccia worked out Townsend prior to last weekend’s draft.
Kudos to Giorgio Tavecchio for admirably filling in for long-time Raider kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Papa Giorgio finished 2017 16 of 21 (76.2 percent and 3-for-4 from 50-plus yards out) and was brought back in an exclusive-rights free agent ender of $550,000. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old’s percentage and pay give a contender a shot at the placekicking duties.
His big boot was quite accurate leading the nation with an impressive 94.4 percent rate. 17 of 18, and he went 5-for-5 from 50-plus yards out. His penchant to drill touchbacks routinely on kickoffs is a tremendous plus.
However, here is the kicker (pun intended):
Townsend was Pinero’s holder in college. The duo has the built-in chemistry and synergy. When a combo is that coordinated, it would be a true travesty to split it up.
If the Kick Klique remains intact, there won’t be an adjustment period. Remember the painful one the Raiders saw between departed punter Marquette King and both Janikowski and Tavecchio?
To be fair, holding for a left-footed kicker is an entirely different adventure.
Neither Townsend nor Pineiro are perfect. The punter needs to master the art of not over-kicking his coverage units. The place kicker requires smoother mechanics and motion to unleash his power.
Yet Townsend and Pineiro are perfect for each other. In addition, that alone, speaks volumes.