This week, kick returner Joshua Cribbs will be going up against two of the biggest and strongest-legged special teamers in the NFL -- kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiders. He talked about the challenges that Janikowski can prevent by just kicking the ball out of the end zone:
(On if Sebastian Janikowski’s big leg on kickoffs will be frustrating this year)- "It was like that already because he was doing that before the ball was moved up five. Janikowski has a big leg, even their punter, he outkicks the coverage. But, that’s what he’s known for, so to combat that we will take deeper drops. I’m going to be standing back there like I was the first game against Cincinnati, I will have my foot on the edge of the end zone ready to bring them out. We’re going to make it happen when they give us an opportunity."
Janikowski is second in the league with 18 touchbacks so far this year, but seventh in the league in touchback rate at 62.1 percent. A kickoff has been returned 10 times off of him for an average of 22.7 yards per return.
Lechler, on the other hand, doesn't always have an advantage by kicking the ball extra long, according to Cribbs:
(On if he likes when a punter outkicks the coverage)- "Oh I love it, we love that. We love for them to outkick their coverage because that gives them the disadvantage. He might think that it’s a good thing for them to give them the opportunity to pin us back, but I believe we have a great return unit and the guys really get after it."
The average distance on Lechler's punts is 53.9 yards per punt, which is the best in the league. His net average is 40.9 yards per punt, good for seventh in the league. A lot of players have been able to return punts against him, and the Raiders have yielded a punt return for a touchdown this season.