The Elephant in the Locker Room: Punt Coverage


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By Greg Wright

As much as I have heard about Seahawk punter Michael Dickson being a “weapon,” I have heard very little about Seattle’s punt coverage being a liability. And yet it is, through two games.

To back up a little, for those who haven’t been following: Michael Dickson declared himself eligible for the draft a year early after his Junior year with the Texas Longhorns. A native of Australia, he had never played American football before he enrolled in an Aussie football clinic designed to teach soccer and Aussie Rules players how to deal with the American game. Within a couple years, he had landed the punter’s job at Texas, finishing his career there with an MVP award in a bowl game.

Seattle moved up in the draft to pick Dickson in the fifth round. All he’s done in two weeks in the NFL is be tied for second in net yards on punts, and make waves with drop kicks on kickoffs–something that happens once every twenty years or so in the NFL, but which will probably be a regular occurrence now for Seattle.

Aside from one 10-yard shank in Chicago on Monday night, Dickson has been nearly perfect with his kicks. Not one has bounced into the endzone for a touchback, and he even had a 69-yard punt for no return in the season opener at Denver. He does it all–distance, placement, hangtime.

But here’s the problem.

Brian Schneider, Seattle’s long-time Special Teams coach under Pete Carroll, hasn’t dialed up coverage good enough to match Dickson’s punting.

Six of Dickson’s 13 punts have been returned for a total of 67 yards. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but let’s put that in perspective. In 2013, the Seahawks led the league in punt coverage with a total of 82 returns yards allowed… the entire season.

Now, Seattle has not lived up to that near-record-breaking performance in recent seasons. So this season isn’t the only one that doesn’t measure up. And Dickson’s net average of 46 yards per punt is six yards higher than what Jon Ryan netted in that near-NFL-record season.

But if Dickson is really going to become a weapon for Seattle, Schneider’s gunners are going to have to do a better job of breaking down when they arrive on the scene, and corral opposing returners. Right now, the gunners are misfiring nearly every time there’s a chance for a return.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 



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