The Los Angeles Chargers brought in a new punter to replace ascending pro Drew Kaser; here’s why it was the right choice for the team.
Last year, Anthony Lynn revealed these thoughts on Nick Novak’s game-winning kick against the Oakland Raiders: He doesn’t miss the ones when the game is on the line.
When it came down to it, Novak could perform in crucial situations, something that supressed concerns over leg strength. Lynn made it clear with both his decision to sign Novak and his comments following the kick that he was interested in a player who would remain steadfast in the most intense situations. Punter Drew Kaser, for as strong as his leg is, has shown on a number of occasions that he cannot.
This has been an issue since his rookie year in 2016, where he egregiously whiffed on a 17-yard punt that gave the Kansas City Chiefs the ball at the Chargers’ own 42-yard line, leading to a touchdown that forced an overtime loss.
Flash forward to 2018, and he’s standing in the back of his end zone taking his time to get a punt off against the notoriously strong special teams unit of the Los Angeles Rams, only to have a tight game slip away for the Bolts after his kick was blocked for a touchdown. He makes mistakes in critical moments.
But why Donnie Jones? His career average is 45.5 yards, and his yearly average has declined every year since 2015. By comparison, Kaser’s average has increased every year since his 2016 rookie season, culminating in a career-high 48.4 yards per punt average that would be higher than 14 of Jones’ 15 professional seasons.
The former Aggie has improved dramatically, but was cut in favor of the veteran. Fans were rightfully dismayed, and unfortunately Jones hit the field on Sunday and kicked some questionable balls that were easily returned for 51 total yards. In terms of punting, he’s an obvious downgrade for the Chargers.
More from Bolt Beat
- LA Chargers: 3 early takeaways from 2021 minicamp thus far
- LA Chargers: Drue Tranquill takes a jab at Gus Bradley’s defense
- LA Chargers second-year players: Nothing lose and a lot to gain
- LA Chargers: Why running back could be a big issue for the Bolts
- LA Chargers: Chris Rumph’s upside is Melvin Ingram-like, but better
However, Lynn is looking to build a team that will respond to adversity with confidence and perfect execution. No, I have not looked through Jones’ entire career for his mistakes, but I have seen enough from Kaser to believe that the team’s surprising switch is justified.
If the Chargers’ defense is as good as it’s supposed to be, Lynn would rather let them handle opposing offenses on a shorter field (maybe a five to ten yard difference) over a special teams error that comes from being an oblivious (Rams block), inconsistent (Chiefs shank), or incompetent (holding kicks) punter.
The last thing Chargers fans want to see is a punting error ruin a final playoff push for Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and all the other special players on the roster. With Jones, while the team may not get a great punting average (a number that should improve over the season), they get a guy who will get the job done in the most terrifying of moments; that’s why he’s the right man for the job.