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Las Vegas Raiders special teams looking to be perfect in 2022

Breven Honda
NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders have their core of players set since the 2019 season such as quarterback Derek Carr, tight end Darren Waller, running back Josh Jacobs defensive end Maxx Crosby and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.

However, you can’t forget the Raiders’ trio of specialists in punter A.J. Cole, placekicker Daniel Carlson and long snapper Trent Sieg, who all three signed contract extensions last year – Sieg in March and Cole and Carlson in December – that last at least until the 2023 season.

Sieg and Carlson have been in the Silver and Black since 2018 while Cole joined the duo the following season.

“Going into the fifth year together, AJ joined us a year later, it’s been a great core group for the specialists that I’ve think we’ve really got a great relationship on and off the field and hopefully we produce for the Raiders for a long time.”

Daniel Carlson said during Las Vegas Raiders training camp on Wednesday

Although Sieg was out for the first three months of 2021 with an ankle injury and sidelined on the team’s COVID-19 list, Carlson and Cole went on to have successful seasons of their own.

Cole was a first-team All-Pro punter and played in his first Pro Bowl earlier this year.

Carlson led NFL in field goal makes and attempts, hitting on 40-of-43 field goals and had five game-winners with his foot that helped him receive second team All-Pro honors.

With the accomplishments of both Cole and Carlson last season, they are now looking to take it the next level and aim for perfection.

Also read: 5 burning questions for Las Vegas Raiders training camp

In training camp, Cole said the trio is focused on making every field goal, punt and snap count, no matter what has happened previously.  

“It’s something we have a lot of reps in the bank but it’s not something we’re taking for granted,” Cole said. “So, we’re trying to go out there every single day, build that cohesion, build that trust and there’s never a point where we’ve gotten enough reps, or we’ve gotten enough trust in each other.”

Offseason work for A.J. Cole and Daniel Carlson have been refining and expanding

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The 26-year-old Cole, who averaged a league best 50 yards per punt last year, has been working on kicking balls to certain spots — primarily between the numbers and the sideline.

By working on this aspect during the offseason, Cole is elevating and expanding his game in order to challenge returners when those situations arise.  

“I’ve worked a lot on my directional punting in the offseason, so that’s something I’m going into this year and really try and focus on. Obviously, the distance and the hangtime is something I’m always working on. But my big focus this offseason was directional punting and trying to push that ball outside the numbers.”  

Las Vegas Raiders’ A.J. Cole

On the other hand, Carlson has had a field goal success rate of at least 93% in three of the last four years. Over the last two seasons, Carlson has had 78 field goal opportunities and has only missed five times.  

Carlson said his individual goals vary from season to season but strives to do the best he can no matter when the field goal opportunity takes place.

“Every year during camp, I write my own goals and some of that may be based on ‘hey, I want to improve on this from last year,’” Carlson said. “Each year is a new year and I have to continue to prove myself. It’s more about proving it to myself and just competing with myself. I’m never going to be perfect but I’m going to try and get as close as I can to that each day when I practice or when I play in a game.

Also read: Las Vegas Raiders LB Divine Deablo looking to raise expectations in 2022

The wrinkle for the Las Vegas Raiders specialist: A new special teams coordinator

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

One of the new changes for the Las Vegas Raiders specialists is a new special teams coordinator in Tom McMahon, who has spent the last four years coaching against the Raiders for AFC West foe, the Denver Broncos.

In total, McMahon has spent the last 15 years coaching special teams across four NFL franchises. Before joining the Broncos in 2018, McMahon spent four years in Indianapolis, one season in Kansas City and three years in St. Louis, before the Rams moved to Los Angeles.

As the relationships continue to build in training camp between McMahon and the specialists, he wants steadiness from the feet of both Cole and Carlson, similar to the way Stephen Curry shoots a basketball from beyond the arc.

“From a coaching standpoint, the way I‘m approaching this is consistency,” McMahon said. “We want the same ball all the time by both of them because if they hit that same ball, that’s perfection. It’s no different than a three-point shooter. He makes all his threes. He shoots it the same. We want the same exact ball and that’s really what we’re shooting for.”

From a player’s perspective, both Carlson and Cole understand there is an adjustment period after having former Las Vegas Raiders special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia for most of their careers.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders schedule and game-by-game predictions

The theme for the specialists has been staying in the present, whether it is through their kicking practices or whoever is coaching them.

“Obviously, Tom is coming in with a lot of experience. Loved working with Rich and all he did and the many hats he had to fill last year. That was interesting, of course. Time for a change and we’re excited for this season and what’s ahead.

Tom’s been here a long time. We’ve played against him. It’s fun to have him on our side and some of the schemes and things like that. For me, for AJ, our job stays the same: punt it, kick it, far and high, straight and all that stuff.”

Las Vegas Raiders Daniel Carlson on new ST Coordinator

The experience from both sides will expedite some of the relationship adjustments as it will benefit the team moving forward.

“Coming in, I’ll be honest with you, it’s nice to have that accountability from a production standpoint,” McMahon said. “They’ve been accountable to the Raiders with their production. That hasn’t changed in just our working together. They want their charts to look perfect. They want everything that they do to be winning because the other guys around them are going to count on them to do their job.”