ALAMEDA — The Raiders thought two kickers would be drafted this year. One was Eddy Piñeiro. They almost selected him themselves on Day 3.
Jon Gruden, Rich Bisaccia and Co. felt fortunate when the former Florida kicker fell outside the seventh round, where the Raiders signed him as an undrafted free agent. Piñeiro has drawn attention on Twitter for videos of his field goals stretching over 70 yards, but the rookie seems to be more than just an internet sensation.
His right leg carries both power and accuracy that have been on display throughout the offseason. Though incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio’s kicking experience extends far past Piñeiro’s, the rookie poses a real threat to win the job come regular season time. Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia said the kicking competition will carry well into preseason games, and insists the battle is wide open right now despite offseason appeal the youngster carries.
“It’s been a good competition,” Bisaccia said Wednesday. “Giorgio’s been in the league a while, bounced himself around and really competed his butt off. The young guy (Piñeiro) has got a lot of talent. He just hasn’t played a lot of football. So it should be a good competition.”
Piñeiro made 38-of-43 field goals (88.4%) in his two years kicking for the Gators, including a 17-for-18 clip last season. He also hit 56-of-58 extra points in 2016 and 2017. Tavecchio hit 16-of-21 field goals in his first full NFL season last year, featuring a long of 53 yards against the Dolphins in Week 9. He hit 33-of-34 extra points, his one miss coming after an errant snap by Jon Condo against the Chargers in Week 6 that ended up costing the Raiders the game.
The kickers have been alternating days this offseason since Bisaccia doesn’t want one guy kicking two days in a row. With media access limited throughout the offseason to this point, we haven’t seen the full breadth of work for both kickers. Piñeiro impressed on Tuesday and Tavecchio struggled on Wednesday, but Bisaccia said the whole offseason has ebbed and flowed as such.
“Right now they’re nip-and-tuck,” he said. “When one guy misses two, the other guy makes ‘em all. The next day, that guy misses two, the next guy makes ‘em all.”
Tavecchio made 16-of-21 field goals last season. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Tavecchio finds himself in an interesting situation given his and Piñeiro’s holder is the rookie’s close friend and college teammate, 2018 fifth-rounder and punter Johnny Townsend. Even so, Tavecchio said Townsend made sure to clear the air in that regard when they first met.
“One of the first things Johnny told me after he introduced himself was, ‘I’m gonna do my best to be the best holder for a lefty possible,’ the left-footer Tavecchio said.
“There was no bias whatsoever, just being teammates with Eddy in college,” Townsend said. “I know there’s a kicker competition going on, so each and every day we go out and compete and work to get each other better.
But is it hard to not favor your …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports