Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eagles training camp: Nowhere to go but up for punters

Eagles punters were dreadful in 2012. It will be hard for the new punter to be worse.

Eagles training camp: Nowhere to go but up for punters

Eagles punter Mat McBriar punts the ball past the Giants´ Will Hill. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles punter Mat McBriar punts the ball past the Giants' Will Hill. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Yesterday, Eagles rookie punter Brad Wing was asked what he considers good hang time on his punts. "Anything over 5 seconds," replied Wing, "is a pretty good punt." Today, Wing was placed on the "NFI list" (non-football injury list), and he cannot practice until the Eagles take him off of it. But that is not what this post will be about.

Last season, the Eagles punted 71 times (plus one that was blocked by Marvin McNutt's backside), and I put a stopwatch on all 71 of them. With a quick disclaimer that I'm an amateur with the stopwatch, the Eagles had a grand total of 0 punts with a hang time of 5 seconds or more.

Zero... Point... Zero.

Last season, Mat McBriar averaged 4.19 seconds of hang time on his punts. Chas Henry averaged 4.21 seconds. 19 of the Eagles' punts last season had a hang time of 3.9 seconds or less. 10 of them were 3.5 seconds or less.

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The result of such poor hang time by the Eagles' punters was evident by the return yardage they allowed in 2012. Oddly enough, there were only 9 teams who punted more than the Eagles last season, although that does make some sense considering the Eagles often turned the ball over before they even got a chance to punt. And yet, despite their relatively low number of punts, they led the NFL in punt return yards allowed, with 542. By comparison, the Bears punted 10 more times than the Eagles and allowed just 84 punt return yards.

Some more horrifying 2012 punting notes:

• The Eagles were brutal when they punted near FG range. On their 12 closest punts within FG range, which were all at least at the Eagles' 48 yard line or closer, the opponent's average starting field position was the 17.8 yard line. Four of those punts went for touchbacks, three of them were actually outside the 20, and only one measly punt pinned their opponent inside the 10 (it was at the 9). That's absolutely awful.

• 40 of the Eagles' 71 punts were returned. Half of the returned punts (20) went for at least 10 yards, and 2 additional 10+ yard returns were called back for penalties that were nowhere near the play.

• The Eagles were 31st in net punting average, at 36.9.

• They were dead last in punts inside the 20.

• They were tied for the 6th most touchbacks, again, with the reminder that only 9 teams punted more.

• They only downed the ball 4 times on the season, which was last in the league.

• Jon Dorenbos is a popular player, and is known as a good long snapper, but he had a very bad year in 2012. He needs to be better in 2013.

The bright side to all the above doom and gloom is that it can only get better, or at least in theory. McBriar and Henry are gone, as is special teams coordinator Bobby April. Enter free agent punter Donnie Jones, UDFA Brad Wing, and new special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.

In OTAs, I timed several of Jones' punts at over 5 seconds of hang time, While I didn't happen to catch any Wing punts that got over 5 seconds, he was right in the ballpark, and had better distance than Jones. Wing's inclusion on the NFI list hurts him some, but no matter who wins the punter battle, it is a near certainty that the Eagles will be vastly improved at that position in 2013.

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

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