NASHVILLE – To say Ryan Stonehouse has gotten off to a good start is a bit of an understatement.
Three games into his career, the Tennessee Titans rookie already has done something no other NFL punter ever has. He has averaged 55.0 yards or better per punt in three consecutive games (minimum two punts in each).
Stonehouse averaged 60.3 yards on three punts in Sunday’s 24-22 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. That followed an average of 57.0 yards in his NFL debut against the New York Giants, and a 55.5-yard average in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills.
He has had at least one punt of more than 60 yards in each contest, and against the Raiders he hit one 70 yards for the first time. To date, he is one of four NFL punters to send one at least 70 yards this season.
“He’s doing a great job for us,” special teams coach Craig Aukerman said last week. “(At) Buffalo, the wind gusts got up to 30 miles an hour during pregame, and it was pretty interesting. But he stayed compact, was really smooth, hit some really good balls for us.”
It was not, however, just the distance that stood out on in mild conditions Sunday. It was the fact that a couple of those kicks went a long way toward helping the Titans notch their first win of the season.
With 1:09 to play in the first half, Stonehouse’s first punt of the day traveled 57 yards to the Las Vegas 13, where return man Keelan Cole called for a fair catch. From there, Tennessee’s defense forced a three-and-out that returned possession to its offense with 21 seconds to go in the half. That was enough time to get into range for Randy Bullock’s 48-yard field on the final play of the half, a kick that ultimately provided the winning margin.
Stonehouse’s 70-yard punt came with 3:09 to play in the contest. A 13-yard return meant a net of 57 yards and forced the Raiders to start from their own 19 in pursuit of a game-tying touchdown.
Stonehouse currently leads the NFL with gross average of 56.3 yards per punt and his fifth with a net average of 46.0. It’s early, but both are on pace to set franchise single-season records currently held by Brett Kern, the man Stonehouse beat out for the job during training camp.
“Every year in college, I kind of tweaked my game a little bit more,” Stonehouse said at the end of the preseason. “Each year something would pop up where I’d be lie, ‘Oh, I need more hang time’ or ‘I need more direction.’
“Between my sophomore and junior year is college is when I figured I would try to take it farther than college.”
In his first year as a pro, he already kicks it farther than most – and more often.