The other Eagles beat writers like to bust my chops (all in good fun) about my love of the punting game. I talk a lot about punting, and I write a lot about punting. Last night, as a punting aficionado, Donnie Jones' punt that pinned the Pats at the 1 had me very fired up.
All throughout training camp, I have been extremely impressed with Donnie Jones. Jones isn't going to crush many 60 yarders, but what he will do is be highly consistent with hang time, and he's an outstanding "short field" punter.
A few weeks ago at Philly.com, I noted the many issues with the Eagles' punters last year. One of major ones was their short field punting efforts:
The Eagles were brutal when they punted near FG range. On their 12 closest punts within FG range, which were all at least at the Eagles' 48 yard line or closer, the opponent's average starting field position was the 17.8 yard line. Four of those punts went for touchbacks, three of them were actually outside the 20, and only one measly punt pinned their opponent inside the 10 (it was at the 9). That's absolutely awful.
On Jones' first attempt in such a situation, he pinned the ball at the Pats' 1 yard line. Here's Jones punting the ball. Note the ball itself. The point of the ball is facing downward. That is by design. Jones will kick the point in a way in which the bottom point of the ball will go forward, causing the ball to have backspin:
Jones' punt will have 4.4 seconds of hang time, which is "meh" for a normal punt, but impressive on a punt in which you're kicking the point of the ball trying to create backspin. Russell Shepard does a good job beating his blocker and getting down the field quickly, with Brandon Boykin at the top of the screen and Colt Anderson (from his upback position) bearing down as well:
The ball lands at the 1, and checks up beautifully straight up in the air (see top left corner). A lot of times you'll hear an announcer say, "The Eagles got a great bounce," as if it's luck. This is not luck. I've watched Jones get balls to check up all throughout camp:
Here's the part that I love. Both Boykin and Anderson have the chance to try to keep the ball from bouncing into the end zone, but it appears as if Boykin and Anderson are communicating the same way an outfielder might call off the shortstop on a pop fly. Boykin will be the guy to bat it back into play:
Boykin does a good job making sure he keeps his feet from touching the end line, and softly bats the ball to Anderson. How many times have you seen a player mess this up? But this is something the Eagles specifically work on in practice.
Pats ball inside the 1.
That is just tremendous execution across the board. Gold star for Jones, Boykin, Shepard, Anderson, and you too, Dave Fipp (the Eagles special teams coordinator).
On the ensuing possession, being pinned so deep, the Pats ran 3 consecutive conservative plays, and had to punt it right back. Jones' punt was a small step down from a turnover.
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