DENVER - AUGUST 21: The goal posts on the south end of the field aim skyward as clouds filter the fading sun as the Denver Broncos host the Detroit Lions during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 21 2010 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The road to the preseason is still a long one. So with that long dusty trail to go, why not talk about everyone's favorite positions? I'm talking kickers and the punters, obviously.
Honestly, I'm not surprised this isn't talked about more often. I mean, kickers and punters are important to a team, though I agree that they aren't fun to talk about. Regardless, the St. Louis Rams are in a curious situation going into next season. They released their punter and kicker from last season, and in exchange, they have two rookies.
More on this situation after the jump.
Apparently, Jeff Fisher wasn't in favor of having a kicker account for three million dollars against the salary cap. The Rams drafted Western Missouri's kicker Greg Zuerlein in the 6th round. In doing so, former kicker Josh Brown became expendable. Can you say Josh Brown's 75% field goal average last season was enough to cut him? No (though it was his lowest rate in his four years as a Ram), so it had to be the money his contract tied up.
I will say, even though Donnie Jones didn't have a bad season, it's most likely easier to replace a punter than a kicker. There shouldn't be as much reason to be concerned about him not being a Ram.
The two young players who will replace these players are Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker and aforementioned Greg Zuerlein.
Let's start with Johnny Hekker. From the info I have gathered, he has a strong, fairly accurate leg. What more could you want from a punter? Here's a quote from www.gazettetimes.com, about Hekker:
Hekker had punts of 50-plus yards 17 times and 60-plus six times. He pinned 20 punts inside the 20-yard line and 11 inside the 10. He can conventional punt, rugby punt and has a flip punt that deadens the ball on impact with the ground.
He can also handle kickoffs from what I gathered, and was a QB in high school. He's got experience with fake punts as well.
Now let's talk about Greg Zuerlein. He's the Rams franchise kicker, which doesn't have the same reaction you would get from saying he's a franchise quarterback, but hey it's still important.
Greg is really impressive to me. He's not from a big time school (does that matter with kickers?), but he has made big time kicks.
He was nine out of nine on kicks that were 50 plus. He also made 21 consecutive kicks, breaking NCAA and MWSU records. He averaged 10.7 points a game, and kicked two 58 yard field goals. The Rams got their franchise kicker alright.
"He was nine for nine from 50 plus in bad weather. We’ll keep it at that." – GM Les Snead on selecting Zuerlein.
These two players will be the mostly overlooked - unless they under perform. The Rams need these two players to hit, and hit big, if they are going to make a step up this season.
The one thing I'm worried about is the lack of competition for both of these players. They were good in college, but the NFL is a different beast. As Ram fans, we have seen rookies flame out.
Let's hope that's not the case with these two.