As the New York Jets prepare for the upcoming season, punter Lachlan Edwards will be a key factor.
For at least the past five years now, the strength of the New York Jets has been their defense, finishing in or near the top 10 in yards allowed throughout the NFL (they were ranked 11th in 2013).
They’ve accomplished that with a defense that is stout, efficient, sometimes ruthless and surprisingly tireless. That is, until they get tired, which shouldn’t be a surprise since most defenses usually tire out in the 3rd and 4th quarters. But here’s the thing; if the Jets want to be considered an elite defense in 2016 they are going to have to perform at a high-level for all four quarters.
One theory on how the Jets’ defense can improve next year, again, for all four quarters, is a boost to the punting game. Last season, there were too many times when the punting team left the ball on the field. It created less-than-advantageous positioning, which meant the Jets’ defense having to work that much harder, especially later in the games.
But this year should be different, and apparently the frustration with last year’s punting made it’s way all the way to the 2016 NFL Draft room, where the Jets took Lachlan Edwards in the 7th round. Indeed, the Jets soon found themselves in an interesting situation, as the field positioning a good punter can bring is priceless.
Edwards is easily much better than punter Ryan Quigley as last year, his punting was abysmal. That said, on the playing field where it all counts, last year was arguably Quigley’s worst year, and his struggles were evident. For example, his gross yardage of 43.8 was the lowest total for the Jets in the last five years, and his net (36.5 yards) was the team’s lowest since 2008. And the all important, “inside-the-20 rate” was only 36%, which was not bad, but definitely not great either.
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In fact, he finished 15th in the NFL, just about midway through the pile. Jets fans, does the name Reggie Hodges ring a bell?
Yup, Quigley’s performances were on par with Hodges, who was one of the least memorable punters in franchise history, with the lowest net (35.5) in the past 11 years.
Edwards is from Hastings, Australia as he concentrated on positional punting last year at Sam Houston State.
That explains why his stats last year were college career lows for him. In two critically important categories for punters, gross and net yardage, his numbers don’t shout out in terms of distance.
But, those numbers reflect in many ways his team’s offensive performance, which struggled at times during last season. The main reason for optimism Jets fans—his 40.5% “inside-the-20 rate” was a career best for him. So that’s why he was so appealing to the Jets’ scouting department. And his intangibles? His durability was impressive, punting 79 and 74 times each of the past two seasons.
Needless to say, all of this bodes well for the Jets this year, and by extension, the defense, which certainly can use a little help from their friends on special teams. If Edwards can truly pin opponents deep in their own territory on punts, it will bring great field positioning to what should be a feared defense this upcoming season.