GREEN BAY, Wis. – The NFL season started on Thursday with a brilliant of exchange of punts. First, Tampa Bay’s Bradley Pinion 67-yard bomb went out of bounds at the 2. Next, Dallas’ Bryan Anger’s 38-yarder deftly went out of bounds at the 6.
The Green Bay Packers are hoping for similar results from their new punter in Sunday’s opener against the New Orleans Saints. Last week, general manager Brian Gutekunst acquired Corey Bojorquez in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams and released 2018 fifth-round pick JK Scott.
What does coordinator Maurice Drayton’s like about his new punter?
“Hangtime,” Drayton said after Thursday’s practice. “Hangtime. Hang time. Strong leg. Hang time. Did I say hangtime? Hangtime. Yeah, hangtime. Yeah, definitely hangtime.”
Last season with the Buffalo Bills, Bojorquez led the NFL with a 50.8-yard average and was fifth with a net average of 44.0 yards. Hangtime was a big part of that. According to Pro Football Focus, Bojorquez finished fifth with an average hang time of 4.45 seconds.
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Hangtime is a coverage unit’s best friend. As common sense would tell you, the longer the ball is in the air, the more time the coverage unit has to get downfield.
Just as important is consistency. It was Scott who led the NFL in hang time with a lofty mark of 4.57 seconds. However, he allowed two touchdowns. Against Jacksonville, Keelan Cole returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown. The 59-yard punt had a woeful 3.76 seconds of hangtime and was fielded on the numbers, meaning Cole had plenty of green grass in front of him. A few weeks later, the Eagles’ Jalen Reagor returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown. The 52-yard punt had 4.58 seconds of hangtime – nothing wrong with those figures – but the punt went straight down the middle of the field, allowing Reagor the freedom to go left or right.
On a 45-yard punt, acceptable hangtime is 4.50 seconds. Bojorquez says he holds himself to a “higher standard” and aims for 4.7 seconds of hangtime.
“It’s all about the net” average, Drayton said. “Who cares about your gross? It’s about the net. So, that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Green Bay will be put to the test from the start with New Orleans returner Deonte Harris, who averaged 12.2 yards per punt return (and 27.3 on kickoff returns) in 2020 and 9.4 yards on punt returns (and 26.8 yards per kickoff return) as a rookie in 2019. The 5-foot-6 receiver returned 14 kicks for touchdowns at Division II Assumption.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s the real deal,” Drayton said. “We know we’re up for a challenge. That young man can go. He can go.”