The Green Bay Packers have a secret weapon who is becoming less and less of a secret with each passing week.
JK Scott, the team’s second-year punter, had a middling rookie year with Ron Zook in charge of the Packers’ special teams. But in year two, with Shawn Mennenga running the show, Scott has seemingly taken a big leap forward and is turning into a true field position problem for the Packers’ opponents.
Through three games in 2019, Scott has been busy, in part due to the Packers’ inconsistency on offense. But in his 21 punts — second-most behind only the Jets’ Lac Edwards — Scott has averaged 48.6 gross yards per punt, ranking him sixth in the NFL. And Scott’s net punting average comes in at 43.7, tying him for 9th place among qualifying players.
Those are big numbers compared to Scott’s 2018 season averages. He is up almost four yards gross and five yards net on last year, when he averaged 44.7/38.8. But beyond the raw numbers, Scott has provided some of his biggest and best kicks for crunch time.
In each of the Packers’ games this season, Scott has had a tremendous kick at a critical juncture of the game. In week one it was a 63-yard bomb with less than two minutes to go, which pinned the Bears inside their own 20. Week two saw him launch a five-second 59-yarder from the Packers’ own 16-yard line that would have been a great net if not for a few blown tackles by the coverage team that led to a 15-yard return.
Then in week three, Scott delivered perhaps his best boot of the year, a 66-yard line drive that sent return man Diontae Spencer all the way back to his own two-yard line. Although the hang time on that kick was actually sub-par (4.66 seconds), the angle and trajectory of the punt actually caused Spencer to lose track of where he was on the field, and with Will Redmond covering well, he was unable to gain any significant yardage on the return. That punt was critical for flipping field position in a one-possession game, though the Broncos flopped it back with a 52-yard pass to Courtland Sutton a few plays later.
With all this being said, Scott actually started hot last season as well but trailed off starting in week four. He even had a slightly better gross average through the first three games of 2018 than he did in 2019, at 48.8 yards, though that came with a slightly lower net average at 43.3. However, he is landing punts inside the 20 at a better rate this year (43%) than through three games in 2018 (36%) and significantly better than 2018 as a whole (27%).
But starting in week four last year, Scott’s numbers began to drop precipitously. Between weeks 4 and 10, he averaged just 41.4 gross yards per punt, and despite a nice three-game stretch in the middle of the year, he stumbled across the finish line with a 42.5-yard average in the final four games.
Thus, the challenge for Scott — and his coverage team — will be to maintain consistency as the weather begins to turn colder.