The Raiders do love reclamation projects. In addition, that is why bringing aboard scattershot rookie kicker Daniel Carlson seemed more than flier.
Since joining the team in late October, the gangly 6-foot-5 23-year-old put his best foot forward and solidified a rocky kicker position for the Raiders with a 13-for-14 (92.8 percent) performance on field goals (perfect 15 on PATs).
“Yeah, he is the real deal”, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of Carlson. “He was a pretty high draft kick for a place-kicker. He had his struggles in Minnesota, but he has found his rhythm here and hopefully he is a long-term solution for us.”
The struggles were very real for Carlson. In Week 2 for Minnesota, the team that drafted him in the fifth round out of Auburn, he went 0-for-3 against the Packers. As a result, the Vikings sent him packing (pun intended) the next day.
For over a month, Carlson remained a free agent before the Raiders came calling. In addition, it was in that lull the kicker refined his mechanics. More specifically, his approach — with trusted kicking guru Jamie Kohl. A shortened and more compact approach to the football has done wonders.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “Some of the things I know they’ve been talking about with his technique, that’s what we did here. [His approach] was really long when he got here, and we worked really hard all spring and all summer long on making him a compact approach.”
His kicking battery mate and friend, has gone a similar route, unfortunately. Punter and holder Johnny Townsend, taken six picks after Carlson in the fifth round — led the nation in gross average. However, he arrived as a booming kicker only to devolve into the league’s worst in average. In addition, he leads in short/shanked kicks. (31st in net 37.7). Billed as the punter who booted far and outkicked his coverage, Townsend is a liability, at times.
Once a respected and revered Raiders position, teams now take glee in Townsend trotting onto the field knowing they have a high probability of cashing in on his lackluster punts.