While the Raiders prepare for a run with heavy expectations, special teams’ coach Brad Seely is conducting business as usual.
Let’s just get it out there: No Oakland Raiders coach lost more core players than Brad Seely. A straight-shooter himself, the special teams boss watched Brynden Trawick, Andre Holmes, and Darren Bates depart in free agency, and then, Taiwan Jones gets cut. However, like any coach who has spent 39 years in the game (28 as a special teams coach), Seely takes it all in stride.
He is not the “aww shucks” type of guy. Instead of lamenting on the losses to the Raiders coverage units, he is overjoyed about all the new possibilities.
“That’s what’s always exciting about a new season, we have to find some new guys,” Seely told a throng of media following Saturday’s camp session. “We have suspects and prospects. It is early, so we’ll see what happens when the games start.”
Oh, the special teams game began long before that. Rookie tryouts even. That is where second-year wide receiver — and potential special teams leader — Johnny Holton made his mark. He went from undrafted free agent to finishing second on the team with 12 special teams tackles this past season.
“Well, number one, he’s fast,” Seely said of Holton. “He has one thing that nobody can coach, nobody can teach: He can run fast. “I think the best thing about rookies is they become second-year players. He’s learning a lot of stuff about football. I think he’s learned a lot of stuff about life in pro football.”
Like Seely, Raiders beat writer Jimmy Durkin taps Holton as someone who can take command of the coverage units.
“Johnny Holton is the first guy to look towards,” Durkin begins as he answers my question regarding special teamers in his weekly mailbag. “He had 12 special teams tackles last year and basically may immediately become the leader of that group (which guarantees he’s back as the No. 5 receiver).”
Durkin went on to identify fullback Jamize Olawale, safety Keith McGill (now shelved with a fractured foot) and rookie safety Shalom Luani as suitable candidates to replace the departed special teamers.
Oh, and not to forget, Seely brought up another player that intrigues fans: Jaydon Mickens.
“We’re trying him as a cover player,” Seely said. “Always, he’s going to be a little bit lacking in the size area, so you always worry about that aspect. All he can do is work with what he has, and he’s done a great job of working with what he has.”