While the every-down positions garner most pre-season coverage, the position of long snapper is a vital one for every NFL special teams unit. This season, the Las Vegas Raiders look to solidify the position with veteran Trent Sieg and rookie Liam McCullough vying for the job.
After taking a look at the battle for the kicking spot, our examination of 2020 Las Vegas Raiders position battles stays with special teams unit as we look at what should be a very competitive battle for the long snapper spot and what should be a good battle between veteran Trent Sieg and rookie Liam McCullough.
You might be asking yourself: “Long snapper? Is that really of importance?”
The answer is yes.
From 2007-2017, 11 seasons in total, Jon Condo got the job done as the Raiders long snapper. Aside from the glimmer of hope that was 2016, the most consistent part of this team was the special teams unit. It featured Condo snapping to future Hall of Famers Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski for the majority of that particular decade.
Condo’s importance was evident on one fateful Monday night in 2012 as the Raiders hosted the Chargers.
Early in the game Condo exited with a head injury and Travis Goethel, a linebacker, stepped in to fill the void at long snapper. Cutting to the chase here, it was a disastrous day for the special teams unit and the Raiders lost 22-14 in the season opener.
That game reaffirmed that you should never take your long snapper for granted. Once the Raiders brass elected to go in a different direction from Condo, they signed veteran long snapper Andrew DePaola. On the first punt of the 2018 season for the Raiders, DePaola suffered a knee injury and remained sidelined for the rest of the season. Tight end Lee Smith was able to finish the game as the interim long snapper without the snafus Goethel experienced. The Raiders soon singed Trent Sieg and he’s remained the starting long snapper since.
The position of long snapper is a difficult one and it’s also a tough line of work to break into as most NFL long snappers have very long careers. In fact, of any position, it ranks in the Top 3 for longevity. According to the website longsnap.com, 12 of the 32 long snappers had been in the NFL for eight years or longer. In fact, several NFL long snappers have notched careers of 12, 14, or even 16 years long.
Despite the relative consistency of NFL long snappers, and the fact the Raiders have a good one in Trent Sieg, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden remain committed to having a competition at nearly every spot – even the long snapper. The team inked Liam McCullough of Ohio State this offseason to create that competitive environment.
Liam McCullough was one of three finalists for the Patrick Mannelly Award as the nation’s best college long snapper. Ohio State’s punting and kicking unit ranked near the top in all categories last season and McCullough is a big reason why. Prior to joining the Buckeyes, McCullough was touted as the No. 1 rated long snapper coming out of high school. From 2016-19, McCullough had, as he called it, 577 straight “pearls.”
“It’s a great job to have,” McCullough told the Columbus Dispatch in April. “It’s just a hard job to get.”
Liam McCullough’s talents have earned him a shot with the Raiders competing with the solid veteran Sieg. And, although it’s not the position battle that will grab headlines, watching what happens at long snapper for the Raiders during this unusual 2020 training camp should be worth your time.