Yes, Tim Masthay holds the Green Bay Packers’ single-season record for net punting, set in 2015. Yes, he also is the franchise’s single-season record holder for gross punting average, which he set in 2011. And Masthay ranks second in Packers history in career gross average with 44.2 yards per punt, just 0.3 yards behind Jon Ryan.
But plenty of Packers fans will tell you that Masthay’s inconsistency means it’s time for a change, and Peter Mortell is doing everything in his power to unseat Masthay from his position.
On Thursday, the incumbent Masthay had the only significant struggles of either punter. Masthay’s first punt was an unimpressive one that traveled just 36 yards. Masthay did bounce back later on in the game with a 51-yard boot and a 50-yarder later on, but then was blocked on his fourth attempt, leading on the Raiders’ only touchdown of the game.
(That block cannot be credited to Masthay, however; LaDarius Gunter whiffed on a block and the punter had no chance to get the kick away.)
Mortell, on the other hand, got three chances to boot the football and launched a 58-yard kick and a 54-yarder. The first was a booming, towering shot that was the benefit of about an 8-yard roll after the return man elected not to field it. The second kick landed 54 yards downfield, but was much more of a line drive; the Packers ended up getting lucky that it was not returned for a big gain, as the Raiders’ return man muffed the catch and gave a speedy Blake Martinez enough time to make a shoestring tackle.
As usual, both players had positive and negative plays in the game, as a lack of consistency seems to plague each of them. Sunday’s practice last week saw both players struggle:
With full rush, Masthay hit punts of 43, 42 and 41. Mortell hit 45, 47, 36 and 43. Only Masthay's 43 had decent hang time.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) August 14, 2016
If the punters were trying to hit short line drives then they succeeded. Unless they were trying something I don't know about it was brutal— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) August 14, 2016
Thankfully, both Mortell and Masthay have been reliable when holding place-kicks; each player held for one field goal and one extra point on Thursday night. In short, that part of the job should not sway the competition in favor of one player or the other, Mortell’s self-assigned “Big Ten Holder of the Year” honors notwithstanding.
At this point, there seems to be no separation from one player to the other. However, Mortell has shown enough to make this writer believe that he belongs on an NFL roster this season. Whether that roster is the Packers’ will come down to how he performs over the next two weeks, though, and whether he can show the consistency that his competitor has lacked in the past few years.