Three takeaways: Raiders pan for gold on special teams

DJ Cabanlong-The Sporting Tribune
The Antonio Pierce regime is off and running as the Las Vegas Raiders began OTAs this week with an emphasis on special teams.

HENDERSON, Nevada — OTAs have kicked off across the NFL this week, and the Raiders have as much to prove as anyone in 2024.

Antonio Pierce had his interim tag removed in the offseason, reaching an agreement to become the 23rd coach of the Raiders.

Tuesday’s organized team activity session allowed the media to get a first look at the new regime and speak to players and coaches for the first time since the league year began.

New kickoffs: special teams dream?

You can count Raiders special teams coordinator Tom McMahon as one of the proponents for the NFL’s new kickoff rules.

“Do like it? I love it,” McMahon said.

“Returners are excited, their values can skyrocket. For example, if you have one returner back there and you kick off 80 kickoffs, that guy is going to touch the ball 80 times next year. Before it’s only, your best receiver or halfbacks that are guaranteed touches.

“The value skyrockets for the position players, because now they’re covering every rep. The leading tackler in the leagues can probably go back to the early 2000s, 36 tackles on special teams whereas (now it’s only 16 tackles and slashes their value. goes as coaches you know, naturally we want to play every play.”

The new kickoff rule was adopted this offseason after years of discussion regarding the safety issues presented by traditional kickoffs. The NFL is moving to an XFL-style kickoff, where the players remain stationary downfield until the returner retrieves the ball.

A simpler offense

Second-year tight end Michael Mayer looked and sounded a lot more like the version we got to know at Notre Dame as opposed to the one we saw suffer through last season. Mayer raved about the new look offense being implemented by offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

“It’s easier than last year,” Mayer said. “It’s been great. Getsy’s been great. My tight end’s coach, Steckles, has been great. AP’s been great with the offense. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there.

“I’d say it’s a little bit more simple. Yeah, a little bit more simple, easier to understand, but there’s tons of offenses in the NFL. That’s kind of how it is. So, I’m very happy with the way this offense is going so far and what we’re going to be able to do on the offensive side.”

Getsy even got a stamp of approval from Mayer’s former college teammate, Bears tight end Cole Kmet. Getsy was the offensive coordinator in Chicago the last two seasons where Kmet became one the premier tight end options in the league.

“I talked to him, and he said he loves Getsy. He loves Getsy, he loves Steck. Obviously, (Kmet) has a big-time contract, and he’s got a ton of balls his way, so from everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve heard and learned, you know, Getsy’s offense is very good for tight ends. It’s very good for offenses and scoring points. We’re excited about that.”

Watch for Laube’s emergence

One player that was impossible to ignore in Tuesday’s session was seventh-round pick Dylan Laube, a running back from New Hampshire.

Laube wears No. 23, so of course there was a comparison to 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey. Laube will be a legitimate third-down back option with the potential of gaining carries on earlier downs depending on how Zamir White progresses in his first season as the starter.

At the very least, Laube will provide a speedy change of pace that should mix well with Zamir White’s powerful running skills. It’s a two running back per team league, anyway.