Often one of the most thankless jobs in the NFL, but punters are critical to field position battles and can make all the difference in a close contest. Despite the lack of respect that punters generats, they undoubtedly have a profound impact on the outcome of the game.
The punter's role is to pin their opponent deep in their own territory with the hopes of forcing a long drive or a possible turnover. The New York Jets recently changed punters this year when they added journeyman Robert Malone and waived two-year starter T.J. Conley.
Malone, a two-year veteran, has already seen his NFL address change multiple times throughout his career. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Malone began his career as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. His tenure quickly came to an end after he was cut before training camp started. Over the next year, Malone bounced from Tampa to Detroit to San Diego where he backed up Mike Scifres, widely considered to be a top punter in the league today.
"It was good working with him," added Malone. "It definitely challenged me to get up to his level," said Malone of his San Diego teammate. "There's no one that hits a higher ball than him, so I actually probably improved my hang time a good 3/10ths to a half-a-second."
Malone attended college at Fresno State where he was the starting punter for the Bulldogs. In four games this preseason, Malone punted 20 times for an average of 44.8 yards per punt. Beyond that, he is an outstanding placeholder for field goals and extra points. Now as a member of the Jets, Malone hopes to have job security in one of the nation's most exciting cities.
"It's expected as a young punter in the league, remarked Malone of being bounced around the NFL. "It's going to happen. You just have to find a team to stick around (with) and perform well."