The Raiders’ punter competition is over. On Tuesday, the Raiders waived Johnny Townsend, which effectively anoints undrafted rookie A.J. Cole as the team’s punter moving forward.
The Raiders used a fifth-round pick to select Townsend last year, but he didn’t do much in his rookie season or training camp this summer. Cole, meanwhile, managed to put two punts inside the 20 against the Rams on Saturday. Quickly, Cole earned a fan in head coach Jon Gruden.
“[Cole] put on an orbital display the other day against the Rams [in joint practices last week],” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Saturday night (via Scott Bair of NBC Sports). “We haven’t seen kicks like that since [Shane] Lechler was here or [Marquette] King. He has a live leg and it looks like he can directional punt and hold, so Townsend has his hands full.”
It’s been a long offseason for the 49ers, who have seen numerous key players deal with injuries throughout the spring and summer. Add more to the list of San Francisco talents set to miss the preseason. Jerick McKinnon and Weston Richburg are both unlikely to play until Week 1. Given $18MM guaranteed, McKinnon is still dealing with knee trouble after missing all of last season with an ACL tear. The sixth-year running back received a platelet-rich plasma injection on his knee and is expected to miss the 49ers’ August slate, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes. The team activated him from the PUP list Tuesday, but Kyle Shanahan said his prized 2018 offseason signing experienced significant soreness after going through individual drills the past two days. Richburg, who remains on the active/PUP list after a January knee surgery, is being targeted a Week 1 return. So are Nick Bosa and Jason Verrett. The 49ers hope Dee Ford, who received a PRP injection on his injured knee, can play by the team’s dress-rehearsal preseason game.
Here’s the latest West news from outside of San Francisco:
With the Seahawks in desperate need of available pass rushers come Week 1, more blitz opportunities may be on tap. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks (should he be on the field) are in position to be used more as rushers. “If we can play really good D, it’s going to be because of Bobby and K.J. and Mychal and the guys in the linebacker spot. We’re going to utilize them as much as we can to be a factor in all aspects, run and pass [defense],” Pete Carroll said, via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson. “Those guys are really good pass defenders, and they love coming off the edge too. We’ll plan on using those guys a lot.” After Frank Clark‘s departure, the Seahawks have Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier injured. Jarran Reed incurred a six-game suspension. Wright has not collected a sack since 2016, when he had four. Wagner had 4.5 that year but recorded 2.5 since.
Theo Riddick will earn a $2MM 2019 base salary with the Broncos, and $750K of it is fully guaranteed, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Another $250K will be available in per-game roster bonuses. Overall, Riddick signed for $2.5MM with $1MM guaranteed. This makes it a near-certainty Riddick will appear on the Broncos’ 53-man roster in September.
The Broncos are already down Todd Davis for multiple weeks; they will be without one of his top backups for longer than that. Joe Jones suffered a triceps injury this week, and a second opinion delivered more clarity on the inside linebacker’s timeline. Jones will be out between six and eight weeks, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. But he will not need surgery, which could increase his chances of making the Broncos. If Jones hits IR before the Broncos finalize their 53-man unit, the special-teamer will be ineligible to return for them this season.
Returning 2018 fifth-round pick Johnny Townsend would seemingly be in line to keep his job as the Raiders‘ punter, but Jon Gruden said rookie UDFA A.J. Cole has put himself in the conversation to unseat the incumbent, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (on Twitter). Cole would be an option to handle Raiders kickoffs as well.
The punter competition is between JohnnyTownsend and rookie A.J. Cole. The 24-year-old Townsend is the incumbent after appearing in all 16 games for the Raiders in 2018. However, the Florida product struggled at times during his rookie campaign, and he ranked 30th in the NFL with a 38.3-yard net average. The Raiders ended up adding Cole as an undrafted free agent, but Gehlken notes that Townsend is still the favorite for the position.
“He’s really done a great job working on his hang time,” said special teams coordinator RichBisaccia. “That’s improved tremendously (over) the course of the year. Now, we’ve given up a little bit of direction to get his hang time where he’d like it to be, and hopefully we can get both — the hang and the direction — going into training camp.”
Meanwhile, veteran AndrewDePaola is the favorite at long snapper, although the 31-year-old missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL. The Raiders signed TrentSieg to fill in, and the rookie ended up appearing in 15 games last year. While DePaola wasn’t able to get on the field with a rookie punter and rookie kicker, the veteran was still instrumental in their development.
“If we had any questions, we’d always ask him because he’s been through it a little more than we have,” Carlson said. “It was just huge for us last season to have that resource. It’s good to have him back and healthy and competing now again.”