A Leg Up? Gruden May Already Be Leaning Toward Pineiro

Raiders head coach has been impressed with rookie kicker and the fact new punter Townsend held for him at Florida

Weeks before training camp begins, Raiders fans know there will be a duel between kickers Giorgio Tavecchio and Eddy Pineiro.

Tavecchio is the holdover and the man to beat. Pineiro is the undrafted rookie free agent from Florida.

Yet it already sounds as if head coach Jon Gruden has a favorite in the battle: Pineiro.

In a conference call with season ticket holders this week, Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie took questions and talked about the team and players.

Gruden, who’s been coaching the Raiders through organized team activities (OTAs) this week, sounded excited about Pineiro, who’ll join his former Florida teammate, punter Johnny Townsend, who was a Raiders’ fifth-round draft pick this spring (and will replace Marquette King).

Pineiro was the most accurate field-goal kicker in Florida history, making 88.4 percent of his attempts. This past season he was 17-of-18 (94.4 percent). He’s also got a strong leg, going 5-for-5 on kicks of 50 or more yards and in practice has reportedly made kicks from 80 yards.

Gruden loves what he’s seen and is already talking as if the newcomer is the favorite over Tavecchio.

“When you talk about Eddy Pineiro, he hasn’t missed a field goal,” Gruden told the ticket holders, according to Raiders.com. “We watched him kick today and he made every one. The holder is Johnny Townsend, by the way, who was also a Florida Gator punter who held for him in college.

“We felt Eddy was so good we were going to draft him in the seventh round, that’s how much we thought of this kid, and we paid him a lot of money to make sure we were going to get him as an undrafted free agent. He and Tavecchio are going to have a great battle in training camp, but when you go back to the holder, the cool thing is we do have Johnny Townsend who’s an experienced holder and has a lot of experience holding for Pineiro, which I think is going to help him tremendously.”

Tavecchio, in his first season with the Raiders in 2017, was 16-of-21, making 3-of-4 from 50 yards or more. He also was 33-of-34 on extra points.

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