Before this season began, it appeared undrafted rookie Eddy Pineiro would win the Raiders’ place-kicking job.
Pineiro, who competed with incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio throughout the spring, was clearly the better performer. Then, Tavecchio was released in early August. That left Pineiro, from the University of Florida, to compete with 36-year-old free agent Mike Nugent. After hitting all three of his field-goal attempts at the start of the exhibition season, Pineiro was on his way.
But a groin injury derailed Pineiro, and he was placed on injured reserve for the entire season.
However, when he comes back this spring – he’s signed through 2020 – Pineiro will face a bigger obstacle than Tavecchio: Daniel Carlson.
Carlson, a rookie from Auburn, joined the Raiders in October. In eight games for Oakland, Carlson has made 13 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including both of his tries from 50 or more yards.
Carlson began the season with the Minnesota Vikings, who drafted him in the fifth round, but he was released after two games after making just 1-of-4 field-goal tries, including going 0-for-3 in a game against Green Bay that ended in a 29-29 tie.
But since joining the Raiders, he’s been terrific in all phases.
“He’s been a real bright spot for us,” Gruden said this past weekend, after Carlson made three field goals in a loss to the Bengals. “Hopefully, as I said a few weeks ago, he’s the long-term solution here for the next several years. You get a kicker, he’s going to have to be your leading scorer every year. You get a guy like this that can kick off and make long-range field goals and critical field goals, it’s exciting.”
As Matt Schneidman of the Bay Area News Group reported this week, Carlson turned his season around – and saved his career – by spending several days in Iowa with kicking coach Jamie Kohl, who made adjustments to Carlson’s stride as he approached the ball. Carlson then worked on those tweaks over his five weeks of unemployment.
Since joining the Raiders, he’s been consistently excellent.
This week, Carlson, whose contract expires at the end of this season, told Schneidman he’s excited about his future with the Raiders.
“I have a coaching staff, teammates that believe in me, and so it’s nice to be in a situation where I feel there’s a lot of things ahead of us in the future, and I would love to be a part of that.”
So would Eddy Pineiro. Expect a duel this spring and summer.
Carlson and the 3-11 Raiders will get their next opportunity Monday night against the 6-8 Denver Broncos at home. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m.