FLORHAM PARK N.J.- After just two preseason games, Jets rookie punter Lachlan Edwards has showed the team that he has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL. He has punted the ball a total of 12 times for an average 45.1 yards, and four punts inside an opponent’s 20-yard line. Not bad for a rookie who is new to the league and fairly new to the country.
What isn't new for Edwards is football. He grew up playing Australian football with his two older brothers. Edwards also played rugby, cricket, and ran track and field at Mornington high school. He moved to the United States from Australia in July of 2013 when he was 21 years-old. He arrived in Texas and began to delve into the American lifestyle, the food (favorite dish is chicken fried steak), and most importantly sports.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment just culture wise, people not really understanding me to start, I think my accent was a bit thicker but I caught on pretty quick," Edwards said weeks ago. A 20 plus hour long flight is ample time for one to think over where their life is headed. For Edwards, it didn't take long to figure out that his career plan involved a pigskin. At Sam Houston State University, Edwards was one of the top punters in the Southland conference, becoming a first-team all-conference player in 2014 and ranking sixth nationally in punting average with 44.4 yards per punt.
As the only punter currently on the Jets roster, Edwards has the advantage of not having to compete for a roster spot. The Jets drafted the Aussie in the seventh-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The organization believes in his ability and so do his teammates.
“He’s done a great job he’s had two great games, he had a pretty great camp," kicker Nick Folk said of Edwards. "He’s pretty level headed which is good for a young kid, hopefully it kind of sticks through.”
For any rookie entering the NFL, it's imperative to have the necessary guidance to help smooth the transition to the professional level. Whether it's the snap, hold, kick, or the snap punt sequence, long snapper Tanner Purdum and Folk are two teammates Edwards works with during practice to try and get better and develop chemistry.
“I try to talk to him [Folk] and Tanner and sort of follow what they do because I need a veteran to help [me],” said Edwards. “The biggest thing I’m working on is really getting in sync with the other guys, when I’m holding for Nick, getting that timing right…you want to get that rhythm so you can do it with your eyes closed.”
The most valuable advice Edwards can gain is how to sustain longevity in this league. A kicker or punter can tire out their leg just like a pitcher can develop arm fatigue in baseball, so rest is imperative. Monitoring practice reps can help Edwards avoid overexertion.
“Keeping track of how many kicks you do a day and in the week, because by the end of the season you might end up hitting 4,000 balls" Edwards said. "It’s really just to maintain your body, that sort of stuff, get in the ice tubs, contrast showers and stuff.” The concept of keeping track of your kicks is something Edwards has learned under the tutelage of Folk, a 10-year veteran. Folk calls it "kick counts," something he started doing in 2012.
“I hit quite a few balls that year,” said Folk. “I kind of had to gage how I felt at the end of the year, I was feeling pretty tired come late November December…once you’ve hit a ton of balls in training camp you can’t hit way less and be less prepared for the game, so you have to start with less and then build from there.”
Unlike the collegiate level, Edwards will have to get used to kicking into the latter parts of December. Edwards plans to keep his reps down but keep a high level of effectiveness.
“As a specialist sometimes you get in the habit of you just want to finish on a good one," said Edwards. "So if you’re having a day that you don’t quite like you might end up kicking 10 extra balls than you wanted to...quality over quantity, that’s really what I want to get at.”
It's still a process for the rookie, and he knows that working on the little things will ultimately make him an elite punter. “It’s just the small fundamental things with my planning of steps, it’s my drop, it’s my follow through," Edwards said. “I’m working on my accuracy every day. I wouldn’t say my accuracy’s bad at all….I’ve got a lot of power so that’s really what I’m trying to utilize especially once it gets near the end of the season. When it gets cold the weather takes a turn for the worst so you want to be able to have that power so you can still hit a nice ball and have good field position for the team.”
Whether he's getting used to the nuances of special teams, or driving on the right side of the road, Edwards will be ready when the field lights come on.
“When it’s your chance to shine you got to shine.”
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for Jetsinsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL) or via email, (firstname.lastname@example.org).