In 2012, Sebastian Janikowski had been as good as ever.
In his 13th season in the NFL, the Raiders’ kicker made 31 of 34 field-goal attempts and his 91.2 percent success rate was the highest of his career.
But in 2013, Janikowski misfired often. He missed nine of his 30 attempts and at times his misses were costly. In a November game against the Titans he shanked a 32-yard try – his second miss of the season from under 40 yards after making 85 of 86 from that distance from 2008-12 -- then had a 48-yarder go wide in a 23-19 Raiders loss.
Some said his problems were because he was working with a new holder, punter Marquette King, after years working with Shane Lechler; Janikowski said his technique was off; and head coach Dennis Allen, after the loss to Tennessee, said it was a “field-goal unit problem” and all the blame wasn’t on Janikowski.
Now, as the Raiders prepare to open training camp this week, Janikowski says he expects 2014 will be more like 2012 than 2013.
Janikowski told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler recently that he cut his offseason short by two months to come to California to work with King and long snapper Jon Condo to make certain the trio is in tune heading into this season.
“With Shane, we knew each other so well, that’s a trust issue right there,” Janikowski told Ostler. “He knew if I’m pushing the ball, he would tilt the ball in the different direction. So now I’m working with Marquette and it’s improving a lot.”
Janikowski, 36, says age hasn’t been a problem. He knows he hasn’t lost leg strength and and he believes with fine-tuning the on-field chemistry with King, he can return to his All-Pro form.
The Raiders certainly have a lot invested in their kicker. In August of 2013, they made Janikowski the highest-paid kicker in the league, giving him a four-year extension worth just under $19 million.
Now the franchise’s career scoring leader wants to prove again how good he is. And with upgrades across the roster this offseason, Oakland will need him to be his old self – the 2012 version – to pull out some close games.
After last year, however, Janikowski knows there are doubters.
“Every year is a test,” he told Ostler.