To the average fan, punting—or kicking in general—is the worst part of any football game. On most nights, it occurs only a handful of times and more or less drifts away from the core aspects of the sport. Punters and kickers typically land on highlight reels for the wrong reasons, with the chances of disaster exponentially higher than that of a roaring success. As such, the majority of these players are naturally bound to a future of infamy or irrelevancy.
In recent years, however, personalities such as former Colts punter Pat McAfee have shed light on the intricacies of kicking. As a result, many football fans have discovered a newfound respect and appreciation for the 64 men around the NFL who take on this daunting responsibility on a weekly basis. It not only takes a great deal of mental fortitude from the kicker, but it also requires the 10 other players around him to set him up for success.
The Seahawks have had very few issues on that front since 2018—when they selected Australian punter Michael Dickson out of Texas in the fifth round of that year's draft. Ever since, Dickson has become one of the more recognizable figures at his respective position, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in his rookie year and riding that momentum to a lucrative four-year, $14.5 million contract extension this summer. That new deal makes him the current highest-paid punter in the NFL.
Dickson is more than living up to that price tag this year. Unfortunately for him, his opportunities have come at the expense of Seattle's early-season woes, which have led the team to a disastrous 2-3 start on the year.
Through five weeks, Dickson leads the NFL in punt attempts with 25. That number, of course, is a very bad sign in the grand scheme of things, but he's made the most of those chances. Though he currently sits in the middle of the pack in net yards per punt (41.3), this is partly due to often working in a short field. 14 of his 25 punts (56 percent) have been attempted 60 yards or less away from the opponent's end zone, with half of those coming at midfield or in enemy territory.
Here's a list of every punt Dickson has kicked this year with starting spot, air distance and where the ball was ultimately returned to:
|OPPONENT||KICKED FROM||AIR DISTANCE||RETURNED TO|
Dickson leads the league with 13 punts that have pinned the opposing team within its own 20-yard line. That's a great asset for any team to have, let alone one that currently features one of the worst defensive units in the game. That said, such favorable field position hasn't necessarily equated to success for the Seahawks, whose defense has given up 17 points following three of those 13 punts.
This shouldn't diminish Dickson's value or let his production fly under the radar, however. He deserves to be touted for his consistency, especially given the fact he's had the heaviest workload of any punter in the NFL this year. He's a bonafide special teams weapon and an exciting one at that.
Again, punters rarely wind up on highlight reels for something positive they've done. But Dickson proved to be an exception against the Rams this past Thursday, in an otherwise nightmarish affair for the Seahawks.
After having his fourth punt of the night blocked within the Seattle 20-yard line, Dickson made one of the smoothest plays you'll ever see from a player at his position. Moving to his left, he swiftly scooped the bouncing ball from the ground, attempted to run for a first down, then decided against it and opted to kick it again for a booming 68 yards, his longest kick of the year.
Nearly every person who witnessed the play was left in utter confusion, believing the play would be deemed illegal by the NFL's guidelines. But as it turned out, Dickson was well within his rights to kick the ball again; however, he still should have been penalized for going across the line of scrimmage (the 21-yard line) before he booted it.
Nevertheless, it was still an impressive effort that offered plenty of entertainment value. And in a way, it was somewhat of a microcosm of Dickson's season thus far. It was an incredible moment that no other punter could possibly replicate, but one that will be forever overlooked due to the Seahawks' lack of success—much like his season as a whole.
“I thought it was one of the worst plays that had ever happened," head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. "And it turned into one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. ... Great play. Mike pulled it off. That’s his background, and all of the games he’s played at home, certainly led him to be able to do that. Just responding it, just the flash of an instant to be able to take that opportunity.”
Not even four full years into his professional playing career, Dickson continues to set the standard at his position. He's off to yet another brilliant campaign and should be in the conversation for a healthy dose of accolades by year's end.