If you’re an NFL general manager who drafts a punter, you had better get consistently exceptional performances from that player in order to make that draft pick worthwhile. The Seattle Seahawks got not just an exceptional performance from fifth-round pick Michael Dickson on Sunday; they got an all-time performance.
Dickson, who punted six times in his rookie debut on Sunday, did something that has only been achieved a handful of times in NFL history by putting up a gross punting average of 59 yards. His net yardage of 57.5 ranks second all-time for a single game with four or more punts, while four of his six were downed inside the 20-yard line.
Taken a few selections after Dickson in the fifth round of this year’s draft, Green Bay Packers punter JK Scott did not match Dickson’s lofty numbers, which were helped at least somewhat by the thin Denver air. However, Scott acquitted himself well in his rookie debut against the Bears, even though his leg ended up being done with its workload by halftime.
Scott’s results were positive on his first three kicks, which averaged 44.7 yards gross and 43.7 net. A 10-yard holding penalty by the Bears on the first punt (which does not get included in gross yardage) only helped further. Those three kicks consisted of the following:
- 39-yard punt, out of bounds at the Bears’ 24 (holding penalty on Bears moved the ball back another ten yards)
- 44-yard punt to Bears’ 29, 3-yard return by Tarik Cohen
- 51-yard punt to Bears’ 15, fair-caught by Tarik Cohen
That’s a very solid start, though Scott saved his strongest punt for last. On the play immediately following Aaron Rodgers’ injury, Scott drilled a booming 58-yard punt from the Packers’ 27 all the way to the Bears’ 15-yard line. Unfortunately for Scott, his coverage team was not up to the challenge; good blocking from the Bears and poor lane discipline by a few key Packers allowed Cohen to rip off a 42-yard return.
(As an aside, long snapper Hunter Bradley made the tackle on that play. That gave him one more tackle than Brett Goode had in the past four seasons combined, according to Pro Football Reference.)
A review of the tape on Scott’s big kick by our Peter Bukowski indicated that Scott’s kick was long and high, as one would want — in other words, he didn’t hit a low bullet that put his coverage team in a bad spot. However, although his gross average jumped to 48 yards per punt, the return dropped Scott’s net average to 36.8 yards on the night.
Still, it was a solid evening overall for Scott. He had no issues with handling snaps, either as the punter or the holder, he had some solid directional punting early, and the one long return he allowed was not really his fault as he crushed the football and was let down by his coverage unit. It was not an all-time great performance like Dickson’s, but it’s at least a sign of good things to come for the rookie.