Sam Koch is arguably the NFL’s best punter and has been for a long time.
But this year, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense is taking away his primary job.
Koch and the Ravens have punted the ball just 21 times this season. That’s the fewest in the NFL.
Koch is on pace for just 37 punts, which would be the second-fewest in NFL history over a 16-game season. The Houston Oilers punted just 34 times in 1990.
The 14-year veteran has averaged 77 punts per season over his NFL career. He’s on pace for less than half of that this year.
“Do I blame Lamar? No. But it is partly his fault,” Koch said with a grin.
“It’s also an accumulation of the playmakers we have. To see what they do in the game and see Lamar do what he does, it is pretty exciting from the sideline. I’m there when called upon to help.”
Koch said it’s fair to say that he has conflicting feelings about how his season has gone so far. Of course, he wants to see the team succeed first and foremost.
“But I do enjoy punting,” he said. “It’s one of those things. Now that our offense is clicking like it never has, it’s my goal to help when needed and do the best that I can each time.”
Koch said he doesn’t practice any less. He still does his typical warm-up routine kicking into the net each time the Ravens have a third down. It’s just that he spends a lot more time booting balls into the net than on the field.
“It’s great getting a lot of holds. But I don’t even think we’re kicking a lot of field goals,” he said, correcting himself. “We’re pretty average [in attempts]. Any way I can help, I’m here.”
Koch could be having another Pro Bowl year, but he doesn’t even qualify among the stats leaders at his position (at least on ESPN) because their bar is set at a minimum of 2.5 attempts per game.
The other factor is that the Ravens have been more aggressive than most teams on fourth down. The Ravens have gone for it the seventh-most times in the league (and that is skewed by struggling teams going for it at the ends of games just because they have no reason not to). Baltimore has converted the first down 10 of the 13 times for a league-high 76.9 percent.
“I would personally like to punt, but I also understand when it’s fourth-and-short and the way we’re going for it at times, it’s exciting to watch,” Koch said. “With the type of offense we have and playmakers we have, it’s exciting to be there. We never usually did that in the past.”
Koch’s average would be better this year had it not been for a 34-yard punt Sunday in Cincinnati. It was his only punt of the game and it came late in the fourth quarter. Koch’s objective was to hit it out of bounds to save his teammates covering the kick, and he thought he hit it well.
However, it was spotted well short of where he thought it should have been. Koch came off the field, in a 49-13 win, extremely ticked off. Even though he’s getting fewer attempts, he’s still a perfectionist 100 percent of the time.
“It exemplifies the importance of having a solid snap, solid punt, because we don’t get many opportunities,” Koch said.