Rams' punter, special teams a key to streak

    2012-12-13 04:03

(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Johnny Hekker is beginning to make his mark as one of five rookie punters in the NFL.

The Rams' punt team's statistics don't give much reason for pause, ranking in the bottom third in net average, percentage of punts inside the opponents' 20 yard line, fair catches forced and several other categories. But what coach Jeff Fisher likes is Hekker's ability to help the Rams overcome their anemic offense by repeatedly ``flipping the field'' to help the defense.

``I wouldn't say I'm good at too much, but I try to be all right at a couple of things,'' Hekker said Wednesday as the Rams prepared to host Minnesota on Sunday.

The best returners aren't getting far if they do catch the ball. The Rams are tied for sixth in the number of returns attempted against them and tied for 12th with an average of 10.2 yards allowed per return.

In its 15-12 victory Sunday at Buffalo, the best punt return team in the league, Hekker punted eight times. Returner Leodis McKelvin averaged 10.2 yards in four returns, 8.5 yards below his average.

``Well, considering the quality of returners that we've faced, it seems that week after week after week, I'd say they've done an outstanding job,'' Fisher said. ``I mean, week after week we're putting a lot of pressure on Johnny to put the ball on the boundary to angle kick, which is difficult. And it seems like with consistency the guys are getting down and making the plays.''

Learning to kick directionally - away from the returner and toward the sideline - has been the key to his success. Hekker averaged just over 41 yards per punt while at Oregon State, including 44 per attempt his senior year.

Instead of booming the ball as far as he can, Hekker has worked diligently since joining the Rams at attempting to pin the returner against the sideline or kick the ball out of bounds but still get good distance on the kick.

Long snapper Jake McQuaide appreciates the approach.

``He's doing a great job punting the ball, matching his hang time with his distance, which is a huge deal for the other guys that have to cover it,'' McQuaide said. ``He's not just hitting line drive punts that the guy catches it he has 20, 30 yards of space and he can make us all miss. And he's doing a great job at direction. He's doing a great job of doing his job, being a pro and he's done it from Day 1 of being here.''

Hekker has seen plenty of action. The offense has a 33.3 percent success rate in converting third downs, ranking 28th in the league. Though Fisher feels comfortable with Greg Zuerlein attempting field goals from as far as 55 yards under any circumstance, the Rams have called on their punter 70 times.

One of those times was a run that lost 9 yards. Three were passing attempts - all completions - including one for a touchdown in a 19-13 victory against Seattle. The other 66 times, Hekker has worked on his real job of punting.

``I just got to be consistent, punt balls with good hang time, direction and distance, try and squeeze the returner up against the sideline so he doesn't have very much room,'' he said. ``Just doing my best to make sure, when there's a tackle to be made, that our guys are going to be in good positions because the ball's in the right spot.''

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Fred JacksonOct 6 01:22p

Seattle Seahawks RB Fred Jackson (ankle) is dealing with a high ankle sprain, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Eric EbronOct 6 12:32p

Updating an earlier report, Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron (knee) had an MRI reveal no structural damage in his left knee. His status is to be determined for Week 5.

Markus WheatonOct 6 12:22p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (ankle) looks dramatically improved from his ankle injury and has a good chance to play in Week 5 against the San Diego Chargers.

Eric EbronOct 6 11:52a

Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron (knee) had X-rays on his left knee, which were negative. He'll have an MRI as well.

Connor BarthOct 6 10:43a

Free-agent PK Connor Barth (Buccaneers) has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday, Oct. 6, as he beat out other kickers to replace PK Kyle Brindza. Brindza was released.

Caleb SturgisOct 6 10:22a

Philadelphia Eagles PK Caleb Sturgis won't be replaced after missing a field goal and an extra point in Week 4, according to head coach Chip Kelly. 'We're going to [ More ]

Steve SmithOct 6 09:52a

Baltimore Ravens WR Steve Smith (back) is day to day and hasn't been ruled out for Week 5, according to WR Kamar Aiken.

Karlos WilliamsOct 6 09:02a

Buffalo Bills RB Karlos Williams (concussion) sustained a concussion in Week 4, and his status is uncertain against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5.

Zach HockerOct 6 08:33a

New Orleans Saints PK Zach Hocker could be in danger of losing his job as the Saints are trying out kickers Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Russell WilsonOct 6 01:22a

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 287 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the Week 4 game against the Detroit Lions [ More ]

Thomas RawlsOct 6 01:22a

Seattle Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls saw a lion's share of the carries against the Detroit Lions in Week 4 Monday, Oct. 5, running for 48 yards on 17 carries [ More ]

Matthew StaffordOct 6 12:42a

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford completed 24 of his 35 pass attempts for 203 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in the Week 4 game Monday, Oct. 5, against the Seattle Seahawks.

Ameer AbdullahOct 6 12:42a

Detroit Lions RB Ameer Abdullah carried 13 times for just 33 yards in the Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks Monday, Oct. 5, and he added two receptions [ More ]

Calvin JohnsonOct 6 12:42a

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson had seven receptions for 56 yards in the Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks, but he was also credited with a lost fumble [ More ]

Andrew LuckOct 5 09:22p

Updating a previous report, Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) could be on target to play in the Week 5 game against the Houston Texans Thursday, Oct. 8, as [ More ]

Andrew LuckOct 5 07:52p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is 'trending in the right direction' to return against the Houston Texans in Week 5 Thursday, Oct. 8, after taking part in the [ More ]

Marshawn LynchOct 5 07:32p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) was able to run during pregame warmups Monday, Oct. 5, and appears to have a good chance to play in the Week 5 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Alec OgletreeOct 5 07:02p

Updating a previous report, St. Louis Rams LB Alec Ogletree (ankle) suffered a fracture ankle during the team's Week 4 game. He is scheduled to undergo surgery and may [ More ]

Sean LeeOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (concussion) is feeling better but will have to pass all of his concussion tests before he is cleared to play again, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

Lance DunbarOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar (knee) will miss the rest of the 2015 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 4. He scheduled [ More ]

Ronnie BrownOct 5 05:32p

Free-agent RB Ronnie Brown (Chargers) re-signed with the San Diego Chargers Monday, Oct. 5, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Andrew LuckOct 5 05:12p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is expected to play in the Week 5 game against the Houston Texans Thursday, Oct. 8. Luck has a slightly separated throwing shoulder [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsOct 5 04:42p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins' (calf) status for the Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans is uncertain at this point, according to head coach Rex Ryan. 'He looked [ More ]

Jordan ReedOct 5 04:42p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed's (concussion, knee, ankle) head injury is a real concern, according to head coach Jay Gruden. Reed has a long history of head injuries dating [ More ]

Daniel FellsOct 5 04:42p

New York Giants TE Daniel Fells (ankle) was placed on the season-ending Reserve/Injured list Monday, Oct. 5, due to a staph infection in his ankle. TE Will Tye was [ More ]

Antonio GatesOct 5 04:22p

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates is in great shape and will be play in the Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to head coach Mike McCoy.

Ryan MallettOct 5 02:42p

Houston Texans QB Ryan Mallett will be the starting quarterback for the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts Thursday, Oct. 8, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.

Christine MichaelOct 5 02:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Christine Michael will have a role in the offense, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones, with RB Lance Dunbar (knee) possibly out for the rest [ More ]

Dez BryantOct 5 02:32p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (foot) could return after the Cowboys' Week 6 bye, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. Bryant recently had a positive examination of the [ More ]

Cecil Shorts IIIOct 5 02:12p

Houston Texans WR Cecil Shorts (shoulder) is considered doubtful for the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts because of the dislocated shoulder he suffered in Week 4.

Alec OgletreeOct 5 02:12p

St. Louis Rams LB Alec Ogletree (ankle) will need surgery on his ankle, according to head coach Jeff Fisher. Ogletree is a candidate to be placed on the short-term Reserve/Injured list.

Dan CampbellOct 5 01:52p

Miami Dolphins tight ends coach Dan Campbell was named the team's interim head coach Monday, Oct. 5.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group