Every position is important on an NFL roster, but punters have it harder than most players. To stand out, they have to mess things up badly or be really good at their job. Fortunately, the Las Vegas Raiders have one that falls in the latter category in A.J. Cole.
The Raiders don’t have to worry about the punter position
Punters have one just one job, kick the football as hard as they can in order to give opposing offenses a farther field to travel. There are cases when rather than strength, they need touch but as oversimplified as that sounds, that’s pretty much it. Of course, punters must have a high level of skill to perform their role successfully and not everyone can do it.
Cole is one of 32 players that can do that at the NFL level and can do it well. Originally an undrafted free agent in 2019, the Raiders signed the North Carolina State last Summer. He ended the season with a 46.0 punting average, good for 13th in the league, and had the third-longest punt of the year, a 73-yard one.
This year, the Raiders offense has been efficient, so they haven’t had to punt much. In spite of that, Cole’s punting average remains nearly the same at 45.8 and his longest one has traveled 59 yards. Whenever he’s had opportunities, he has been his reliable self and the team hasn’t needed to worry about the position.
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A.J. Cole knows the team’s rich history regarding the punter position
In a recent sitdown with the press, Cole said that he prepares as if the offense is going to punt on every drive but he’s happy that hasn’t happened. He also mentioned his relationship with kicker Daniel Carlson has greatly improved and added that sometimes their communication is unspoken and that them having that kind of relationship translates into results on the field.
The results speak for themselves so we will agree with Cole on this one. Later in the conversation, Cole talked about being aware of the history the punter position has in Raiders’ history. In doing so, brought up two Silver and Black punters that are among the best in league history.
“There may be certain teams that don’t really care too much about the punter, but I feel there are a lot of fans out there that are really informed and really care about the punter position. The Raiders have had the best history at the position. To have the only punter in the Hall of Fame in Ray Guy and then in a couple of years, Shane Lechler, I think he should be in there too.”
Cole later said he was proud and excited to have the opportunity to represent the Raiders week in and week out. He should be, a good punter is hard to find but once teams do, they don’t have to worry about the position for years. Lechler spent 13 years with the Raiders, and during that time, they just checked the punter position and went to address other team needs. If Cole keeps performing well, it will be a while before the Raiders look for another punter.
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Top Photo: John Locker/Associated Press