Since the moment the Raiders signed free-agent Eddy Pineiro, all signs pointed to him being the team’s kicker in 2018.
The former Florida standout was exceptional in college and then was solid in spring workouts and the early weeks of training camp. He quickly beat out holdover Giorgio Tavecchio, who was released, and was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts in the team’s exhibition opener vs. Detroit. Plus, two of his three kickoffs were unreturnable.
After that game, head coach Jon Gruden was pleased that Pineiro was even able to make a 48-yarder from the dirt infield at O.co Coliseum – a situation Pineiro never had to face at Florida.
Now, however, an injury suffered on Aug. 15 in practice continues to dog Pineiro, and his status as the team’s kicker in Game 1 of the regular season looks in doubt.
When the Raiders play their final exhibition game of the summer Thursday night in Seattle against the Seahawks, the kicker will be veteran Mike Nugent, who originally was brought into camp to compete with Pineiro and provide insurance.
So far, he’s been good insurance, making all four of his field-goal tries in Pineiro's absence.
As Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted this week, the Raiders must reduce their roster from 90 to 53 by Saturday at 1 p.m., so at this point – if Pineiro still isn’t 100 percent – Nugent appears to be the kicker for the regular-season opener Sept. 10 vs. the Rams.
“Yeah, it’s possible, very possible,” head coach Jon Gruden told reporters Monday. “He’s (Nugent) an 80 percent kicker for 13 years. I don't know what the exact percentage is, but he’s a good kicker for a long time. You don’t make it in this business unless you are.
“He’s got the mental toughness, the reliability to overcome a bad game or a bad kick. Right now he’s the leader in the clubhouse because Eddy is not healthy.”
Nugent, 36, came into the league in 2005 and has kicked for the Jets, Cardinals, Bucs, Bengals, Bears and Cowboys. He’s made 81 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Pineiro’s injury is to his groin. If he can recover quickly, he still has a chance to make the opening-game roster. But it looks more likely the Raiders will go with Nugent at the start of the season, at least.
Kickoff Thursday night in Seattle is set for 7 p.m.