Rebuilding the AFC West is finally coming to an end as we take a look at the state of each team’s special teams. A special teams formula can sometimes be one of the most difficult things for a team to tackle. Not having the right personnel can be detrimental and one mistake can alter the outcome of a close game. Ultimately, field position and points are the struggles for each team in the NFL.
Having a great kicker is important to teams because their skill can be tested throughout the season especially in close games.
The Denver Broncos currently have Brandon McManus and his powerful leg out in the ‘Mile High’ city. McManus had a tough season in 2017 and only made 24 out of his 32 field goal attempts. Most of his attempts were made from the 30-40 yard range, but he is proven clutch when attempting 45-yard plus field goals.
The five-year pro is most likely a lock for the Broncos in 2018. He has made over 80% of his kicks in his career, but he’ll need to improve this season for Denver if they can’t fix their offensive woes.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a great young kicker in Harrison Butker, with an all-time Twitter handle (@buttkicker7). Butker made 28 of 42 of his kicks during the regular season, but missed his only attempt in the playoffs. If he would have made that kick, the Chiefs’ Super Bowl aspirations would have been one step closer. Butker is consistent and the team won’t be looking for a replacement anytime soon.
The Los Angeles Chargers struggled to find some consistency at this position in 2017. Sure they enjoyed a hefty win streak, but consider that they could have made the playoffs if a few FGs were made. Their winning ways came down to the performance of the team as a whole, but their loses sometimes came down to the lack of a kicker.
The Oakland Raiders are finally ready to cut 19-year veteran Sebastian Janikowski. Janikowski has been a face of the Raiders since Al Davis pick him in the 1st round of the 2000 draft, but he lost his job last season to Giorgio Tavecchio. Tavecchio came in last season and show the team why he is ready to take over as the team’s primary kicker.
The Broncos currently have Riley Dixon who was in use for plenty of the 2017 season because of their struggling offense. Dixon has a powerful leg and is still fresh in the league. The Broncos most likely won’t be replacing him soon.
Chargers’ punter Drew Kaser has a booming leg and is still young as enter his 3rd season in the league. Kaser averages nearly 50-yards per punt which is phenomenal for any team. With the rise of a young talented defense, Los Angeles needs to keep him on the team for quite some time.
Chiefs’ punter Dustin Colquitt has some years behind him but is a reliable punter with a net average around 45-yards per punt. Generally, punters can last for quite some time in the NFL, but the Chiefs could be looking at prospects that would save some money. But the experience of Colquitt will probably suffice for the Chiefs for another few years.
The Raiders have an intriguing punter in Marquette King. King brings a really strong leg and quite a bit of a show to the Raiders’ organization. He is still young and should be with the team for quite some time.
Special Teams Units
Denver struggled with special teams coverage for most of last season. They allowed a touchdown on a kickoff and a punt return, but it was mainly allowing teams to get field position in some key moments. They have a new special team coach that wants to change the philosophy and work on coverage. On the receiving end, the Broncos weren’t too bad and finished 10th overall.
Kansas City is ranked right behind Denver on coverage at 25th in the 2017 season. They will need to regroup and figure out a way to improve on that via the free agency and philosophy. But they balanced out their loose coverage with the top-ranked return effort. Having the weapons that they do it should come as a surprise that they were able to excel in this area.
Los Angeles was the ranked 2nd in special team coverage, but 31st in returns. That quite the swing there and the team needs to find a consistent return specialist. But at the end of the day when you have an elite quarterback, field position doesn’t matter as much.
The Raiders have a lot to work on after finishing 31st in coverage on special teams last season. With a whole new coaching staff, this should be an issue that is addressed immediately. Fortunately, they were average returning the ball but could use a playmaking return specialist to help them along.