The Los Angeles Chargers haven’t had a consistent option at the punter position since Mike Scifres played for the team. Undrafted rookie Tyler Newsome has a chance to change that.
Someone in the Chargers’ scouting department must have really liked what they saw out of Notre Dame games this past season. In addition to drafting Jerry Tillery and Drue Tranquill, the team signed Newsome.
The Fightin’ Irish were one of the best teams in the country last year, so that’s fairly understandable. But how will Newsome work out for the Bolts?
The Chargers took a very different approach to the punter position after cutting Drew Kaser last season, mainly because the placekicker, Caleb Sturgis, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. They brought in veteran Donnie Jones, who had retired following the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, mainly because he was familiar as a holder for Sturgis.
The team still released Sturgis as he still kept missing, but the aging Jones was retained through the end of the season.
Ty Long, a player who can both kick field goals and punt, was signed to a reserve/futures contract in January and will serve as Newsome’s competition. Long played at UAB in college and spent time in camps with both the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers. He found his greatest success in the Canadian Football League as a member of the BC Lions.
A starter from his freshman season on, Newsome punted the ball 225 times in his college career with an overall average of 44 yards per kick. But he had to overcome major obstacles to get to that point.
As a teenager, Newsome suffered serious, life-threatening injuries in a car accident. He was hospitalized for 17 days with a broken pelvis, broken ribs, fractured tailbone, ruptured spleen and a concussion. Told he would likely never walk again, let alone play football, he overcame the odds.
Newsome went on to star at Notre Dame and for a punter, he couldn’t have asked for a better place to come than Los Angeles, where they didn’t have an entrenched starter in place.
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Newsome is a powerful kid with a booming leg. The only proof you need of this is the fact that he posted 30 reps of 225 pounds at the scouting combine, by far the most ever by a punter. That’s impressive, but this list of players who didn’t put up 30 themselves makes it even more impressive.
Newsome should be able to blast punts off his foot, but having touch and precision with kicks is just as important in the NFL as many games turn into the proverbial battle of field position. If he can show some touch on his kicks to go with his very obvious strength, he’ll become the Chargers’ punter for at least the coming season.
Chance to make the team (1-10 scale): 8
I expected the Chargers to draft a punter to make sure they got one, but the team likely had its eyes on Newsome for much of the draft process and assumed they could sign him to a deal.
I think he will outperform Long in camp and preseason games and so long as a better option doesn’t somehow come available in the eyes of Tom Telesco, he’ll get the job. An “8” on this scale is about as high as I can give an undrafted rookie as their odds of making the 53-man roster are generally not great.