But the Vikings have another specialist who has been just as solid over his Vikings career – P
Just as Monday’s Star Out of the Spotlight –
If you take only a quick look at Kluwe’s 2009 statistics, you might fall into the trap of thinking he actually regressed. The stat often studied most closely as it relates to punters is (gross) punting average, and that number was down 3.7 yards in ‘09 for Kluwe. But punting isn’t about booming it as far as you can. Rather, it’s about limiting return yardage and improving field position.
In those 2 categories, Kluwe was a star in ‘09.
Consider these 3 important statistical categories: punts downed inside the 20-yardline, touchbacks and opponents fair catches. Kluwe had 24 punts downed inside the 20 compared to 23 last year, he had only 9 punts bound into the endzone for touchbacks this year after having 13 in 2008 and he forced opposing returners into 13 fair catches this season after forcing just 8 in ‘08.
Kluwe also improved his hang time this past season, a sure factor in his increased fair catches and punts downed inside the 20.
Ultimately, Kluwe’s improvement during the ‘09 season was an important one. The Vikings coverage units were able to cut their opponents’ average return from 14.9 (32nd in the league) in 2008 to just 7.9 (12th in the NFL) in 2009 and even though Kluwe had the same number of punts in 2008 as he did in 2009, Vikings opponents logged 9 fewer returns. That’s 9 fewer opportunities for opponents to increase field position.
With so much attention paid to total offensive yardage and gross punting average, many times it’s the hidden yardage – punt returns and touchbacks – that turn out to be crucial in winning the field position battle and winning games. Because of Kluwe’s improvement in the punting game, the Vikings kick coverage units also improved and the Vikings found the hidden yardage that was missing in 2008.
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