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Sam Koch might not be booming punts all over the field this year, but he is certainly locating them well while mastering a rugby-style of kicking the football.
With 19 punts inside the 20-yard line, Koch leads all players at his position and is on pace for 43 on the season.
Should he hit that mark, Koch would set a league record, breaking previous bests of 42 punts inside the 20 from both San Francisco’s Andy Lee (2007) and Arizona’s Ben Graham (2009).
“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to do that,” Koch said of pinning the opposition deep. “And I spend a lot of time working on the touch and feel of those types of punts. I feel really comfortable doing them.”
Koch is ranked 26th in the NFL with a 42.5-yard gross average per kick, and his 38.8-yard net average is 14th. But gross yards can be deceiving and even overrated.
For a team like the Ravens, who boast a stingy defense, Koch’s consistency is critical in the field-position battle. The Ravens know it, too, as they spend 5-10 minutes each Wednesday practicing how to down Koch’s punts at an advantageous place.
“I think that practice pays off, because they can get used to how the ball bounces,” said Koch. “When you put them inside the 10, the chances go up significantly for our defense.”
The rugby technique was introduced to Koch when Head Coach John Harbaugh and Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg joined the Ravens in 2008.
Before then, Koch used the regular punting motion and would change how hard he struck the ball to gauge distance.
That’s not to say Koch wasn’t adept at getting inside the 20. He did it 30 times as a rookie in 2006 and posted 56 through 23 games from 2004-05 at the University of Nebraska.
Now, Koch feels he is a more versatile punter.
“In the two years I started at Nebraska, I didn’t have the rugby punt but had a pretty good amount of punts inside the 20, so I’ve done well with the regular style of kicking,” explained Koch. “When I started applying the rugby punt two years ago, it was really difficult for me, just in how you’re supposed to hit it and the mechanics.
“With the rugby kick, you can control the distance more and there is less discrepancy.”