GREEN BAY, Wis. – Last season, one punter led the NFL in hangtime. Another punter led the NFL in touchbacks.
The punter who led the league in hangtime was JK Scott, who the Green Bay Packers released last week. The punter who led the NFL in touchbacks was Corey Bojorquez, the one the Packers acquired in a trade to replace Scott.
The raw numbers suggest the Packers made a major upgrade at one of their weakest positions. Last season for the Buffalo Bills, Bojorquez led the NFL with a 50.8-yard average and was fifth with a 44.0-yard net average. Scott, meanwhile, was 18th with a 45.5-yard average but a woeful 28th with a 37.0-yard net. In other words, in a hypothetical gameday punting competition between Bojorquez and Scott, the Bills would have gained 7 yards of field position with every exchange of punts.
Nonetheless, the Bills didn’t give Bojorquez a restricted free agent tender and couldn’t come to terms on a contract. So, Bojorquez joined the Los Angeles Rams, who added him to challenge Johnny Hekker – the team’s longtime but highly paid standout. Bojorquez did his part with a superb preseason but the Rams reworked Hekker’s contract and traded Bojorquez to Green Bay on Tuesday.
“Honestly, I had no idea,” Bojorquez said after Monday’s practice. “It would’ve been nice to stay, just for the fact I’m from that area and who doesn’t like a new stadium? But, really, I had no idea. Johnny’s a four-time All-Pro, one of the best punters to ever play, so trying to beat him for a job is dang near impossible. You need to have perfect games. Going into it, I was just trying to keep my focus on doing better than I did last year, which I feel like I’ve been doing and showing. Things worked out pretty nice.”
A native of Bellflower, Calif., Bojorquez played collegiately at New Mexico. He signed with New England as an undrafted free agent in 2018 – Patriots coach Bill Belichick long has had an affinity for left-footed punters – but failed to make the roster and was claimed off waivers by Buffalo. He punted for the Bills for the past three seasons. Statistically, he wasn’t very good in 2018 and 2019 but was tremendous in 2020.
With the Rams this preseason, he ranked first in the NFL with a net average of 51.9 yards. That includes a 70-yarder at Denver that went out of bounds at the 1.
“I just hit a real clean ball,” Bojorquez said. “When I first hit it, it was like, ‘Oh, dang.’ I thought I line-drived it too much so the hangtime wasn’t matching the distance. It was a real tight spiral. At that point, it’s either going to be a touchback or it’s not so I’m like, ‘Go over to the sideline!’ At first, I thought it was a touchback – I couldn’t tell – and then I saw the ref come back up to the 1 and give the point. I was like, ‘No way. There’s no way that just happened.’ So, that was pretty cool.”
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While Bojorquez ranked in the top five in net punting and Scott the bottom five last season, Pro Football Focus offers a more nuanced viewpoint. Bojorquez placed 18 punts inside the 20-yard line compared to seven touchbacks. The latter figure was the worst in the NFL, even while punting the fewest times (41) among qualifying punters. Scott, for comparison, had 15 inside-the-20s vs. three touchbacks while punting 46 times.
Scott’s 4.57-second hangtime was tops in the NFL. That made the NFL-worst 17.1-yard average the Packers’ punt coverage unit allowed confounding.
Bojorquez’s powerhouse leg could flip the field position in a manner in which Scott consistently failed. During five December games last season, Bojorquez’s net averaged topped 45 yards in each game. Scott has failed to do so in any of his 15 career December games.
“A lot of guys are cool with a 4.5 hangtime with a 45-yard distance,” Bojorquez said. “I like to push myself a little more. Not that 4.5’s a hangtime by any means but the more hangtime I can get it, the less work our coverage work has to do forcing fair catches. I like to hold myself to a little bit higher standard than what most teams are OK with just to push myself so I’m not ever getting complacent with my performance.”
There’s more to punting than punting. The punter also serves as the holder. Scott was tremendous in placing the snaps of Hunter Bradley. The last two seasons, Mason Crosby missed only two field-goal attempts. Bojorquez will have just a week to learn what Crosby’s looking for.
“I think it comes pretty natural, especially when you start working with so many guys over the years,” he said. “Being able to work with new guys kind of starts to flow pretty well. You get used to their little mannerisms and stuff, so you can kind of expect when like a snap’s going to come for a punt and that kind of thing. But we got a lot of good work today with Hunter and Mason, so really looking forward to getting out there with them.”
Bojorquez has Lambeau Field experience. In Week 4 of 2018, Green Bay won 22-0. Bojorquez punted eight times. Afterward, he was hoping to get Aaron Rodgers' jersey in a postgame swap.
“Actually, my rookie year when we played here, I asked him if I could get his jersey,” he said. "They were wearing the throwback ones, and that was definitely a long shot. And I did not get one.”