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Sam Koch Quietly Having A Pro Bowl Year ... Again

Posted Nov 9, 2015

The Ravens punter leads the NFL in average and net yards. Will he finally get the award he deserves?

Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg had one of the all-time best rants last year after his punter, Sam Koch, was snubbed from the Pro Bowl once again.

Koch has been one of the game’s best since 2006, yet has not gone to the all-star game even once. Rosburg called out the “experts” and said the fans, who voted Koch into the all-star game, got it right.

Unfortunately, Rosburg’s rant came after Koch’s fate was sealed. This year, he’s starting up the hype train a lot earlier.

“Should we replay the tape from last year?” Rosburg said with a laugh. “I have it memorized.

“Sam is showing us this year all the things that he showed us last year. He’s a unique punter.”

At the season’s midway point, Koch is statistically the best punter in the NFL. There’s nothing that can take that away from him.

He leads the NFL in both average yards (49.4) and net (45.6). It’s a rare accomplishment.

Koch had the stats on his side last year, though, and it wasn’t enough. He led the league in net average yardage (43.4) and was third in average distance (47.4). The leader in that category was Washington’s Tress Way at 47.5.

For some reason, Cincinnati’s Kevin Huber and Indianapolis’ Pat McAfee, who both had worse stats, were named to the Pro Bowl instead of Koch.

But it’s not only stats that truly make Koch unique. Yes, they’re a great indication of what kind of punter he is, but Koch is much more than that, Rosburg argues.

“I said this a year ago, and I’ll say it again: He’s changing the way the game is going to be played,” Rosburg said.

“It’s remarkable to me that more have not necessarily followed the lead. Perhaps that’s an indication of how difficult it is to do what he’s doing, because you don’t see much of it – even from the highly-skilled professionals that we see on a weekly basis. Nobody else is doing this.”

What Rosburg is referring to is, generally, the range of Koch’s punts and how he uses them.

Most other punters have two clear goals when they punt. Kick the ball as high and as far as possible. Distance pushes the opponent back and hang time gives your cover team more time to either draw a fair catch or pounce on a return.

Koch, on the other hand, uses a variety of different strategies to negate the opponent’s return game. Often, it’s pinning the returner against the sideline or not giving him a chance at all by punting the ball out of bounds.

What’s remarkable is that Koch can still get such excellent distance despite kicking out of bounds. That takes precision to get the ball to land just barely out of bounds while maximizing its flight.

Koch said most punters he watches boot the ball between the two hash marks. He estimated that he aims outside the hashes 95 percent of the time.

“If I went to the middle of the field, I’d add 3 to 5 yards per punt,” Koch said. “But we’re trying to go outside, trying to shrink the field. We’ve always done that. I don’t mind it. I find it more challenging and more exciting that way. It makes it entertaining.”

It’s as if Koch gets bored just doing what all the other punters do. In actuality, he does get a little weary of the typical punting routine.

“He has made it a lot of fun to coach football for those of us around him, because every day we go out there, and he has a new thought about something else that we want to try,” Rosburg said. “[He asks] ‘How about from this field position? How about from this wind condition?’”

Rosburg said he and Koch use a lot of golf analogies (Koch is an excellent golfer too, by the way). Koch tries to explain his game the same way.

“View me as a golfer,” he said. “You’ve got a bunch of clubs on the bag and depending where we’re at on the field, what punt we want to use, how we want to use that club, what the approach is going into the punt and what we want the outcome to be, I’ll kick it differently.”

Rosburg and Koch won’t give a straight-up answer on how many different punts Koch can execute, including rugby-style, spiral, end-over-end and line-drive bouncing punts.

He said he doesn’t have as many different punts as there are clubs in a golf bag (14), but that “it’s pretty close.”

In Week 8 against the Chargers, Koch’s fourth-quarter punt may have won the game.

He hit a high, twisting punt from the right hash all the way across the field outside of the left hash. It made then-Chargers returner Jacoby Jones, who lost his job after this gaffe, decide not to even field the kick. He let it bounce and the punt perfectly rolled all the way to the 3-yard line. It was a season-long 62-yard punt by the end.

The Ravens trailed by four points at the time, nearly midway through the fourth quarter. Backed up against their own end zone, the Chargers were stuffed on a three-and-out and punted back to Baltimore. With excellent field position, the Ravens scored a go-ahead touchdown on the next drive.

“Sam was amazing,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the game.

So, as Rosburg said during last year’s Pro Bowl rant, what more does Koch have to do?

“You got me,” Koch said. “I don’t really worry about it. I just try to go out there and help the team and whatever it is at the end of the year it is. I can’t do anything about that.”

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