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Daniel Carlson back on track for Raiders

To this day there is no real explanation for kicker Daniel Carlson’s slump over the last six games last season.

One minute the Raiders’ kicker soared, connecting on 22 of his first 24 field goal attempts, the next he struggled, missing six of his next 19 kicks and misfiring on two PAT attempts.

Absent an explanation, all Carlson can do is make sure it doesn’t happen again. Now in his third season with the Raiders, he is off to a sizzling start, connecting on 11 of 12 field goals, including 3 for 3 from 50 or more yards.

In fact, aside from pushing a 41-yard field goal attempt wide left against the New England Patriots and missing a PAT last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Carlson has been perfect.

In the process, he’s eliminated what appeared to be a major concern after he stumbled as badly as he did down the stretch last season.

So much so that Raiders coach Jon Gruden was confident enough in Carlson to put a recent game in his hands. With the Raiders up 31-24 with 1:05 left and facing a fourth and 10 at the New Orleans Saints’ 36-yard line, Gruden opted for a 54-yard field goal attempt by Carlson rather than punting it away and potentially pinning the Saints deep in their territory.

Gruden knew a miss by Carlson would mean Drew Brees and the Saints would get the ball in great field position to mount a game-tying drive.

Carlson, though, put the game away with a perfect kick. “I was happy to be part of that big team win,” Carlson said

The key now is keeping it up. That probably requires a much less intricate approach than one might imagine.

“Just take it one day at a time” is how Carlson explained it on Monday when he and the Raiders returned to practice after the bye week.

That has less to do with minimizing what he’s done this year than not getting caught up in it. For Carlson, it’s all about keeping an even keel and continually building on success.

“Obviously it’s good to have a good start, good to have a good start by the team with a couple of big wins,” Carlson said. “But it’s all about the next game and just keeping that mindset.”

That has been the approach for Carlson throughout a rather interesting start to his career.

Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, Carlson got kicked to the curb two games into his rookie season when he missed three of his first four field-goal attempts.

The Raiders immediately scooped up the big-legged kicker off waivers. Carlson responded by converting 16 of his next 17 kicks.

That carried over to the beginning of 2019 when Carlson hit six of his first seven field goals, only to suddenly struggle.

Carlson admits it’s he’s had to navigate a sometimes steep learning curve dealing with major ups and downs.

“Obviously I’ve learned each year as I’ve grown,” Carlson said. “Learned from some tough ways and some mistakes.”

But it’s led him to a pretty good place at the moment. “I feel good about where I’m at,” Carlson said.

The Raiders, who never wavered in their confidence in the former Auburn star and opted against bringing in another kicker to push him during training camp, obviously feel good about where Carlson is as well.

That was evident when Gruden put the Saints game in Carlson’s hands in week two. “It says a lot about what coach sees in me,” Carlson said.

The key now is keeping it up.

Notes: Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who missed the Chiefs game while on the COVID-19 list, was back at practice on Monday.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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