For one game, it appeared general manager Ted Thompson made the right call in releasing inconsistent incumbent punter Jon Ryan.
On opening night against Minnesota, Derrick Frost punted five times. He averaged 45.2 yards per punt, and because he placed the ball so close to the sideline, his net average was a gaudy 42.6 yards.
But after posting a net average of 42.4 yards against Dallas in Week 3, Frost's productivity plunged. Finally, the Packers have parted ways with a punter who couldn't transition his strong practices into strong game-day performances.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that young punters Durant Brooks, Paul Ernster, Jeremy Kapinos and Ricky Schmitt were contacted by the Packers to fill the vacancy.
According to Scout.com's Adam Caplan, established veterans Todd Sauerbrun, Scott Player and Josh Miller are the top available free agents. Player and Miller apparently are the Packers' fallback plans.
In his final nine games, Frost never recorded a net of average of longer than 40.0 yards. In five of those games, his net was 35.0 or less, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Packers went 1-4 in those games.
The last straw was Sunday against Carolina, when Frost's net average was just 32.3 yards played a role in the Packers losing the field-position battle by a whopping 231 yards. The previous week in the great indoors of the Superdome in New Orleans, Frost's net average was 30.8 yards, a reason why the Packers lost the field-position battle by 184 yards.
In all, Frost averaged 42.1 yards per punt with a net of 36.1 this season, not far from his career averages of 41.2 and 36.4. A huge difference, however, was in inside-the-20 punts and touchbacks. Frost had eight inside-the-20s and five touchbacks, miles away from his career averages of 24 inside-the-20s and six touchbacks.
"He has practiced well. No question about that," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "He's practiced very well the last month. But it's a performance industry. We all know that. And it did not transfer. And it was something that we felt that factored in some of the outcomes of our games, and we need to make a change."
Making matters worse, the guy Frost replaced, Ryan, ranks eighth among players with at least 35 attempts with a 46.4-yard average and 14th with a net average of 37.9 yards. However, Ryan's 11 touchbacks are the most in the league and his ratio of inside-the-20s (14) to touchbacks is the worst in the league, as well.
Here are the punting contenders.
Brooks: The rookie from Georgia Tech is the guy the Redskins kept in favor of Frost. Opposing returners brought back two kicks for touchdowns in six games. 2008 numbers: 39.6 average, 32.1 net.
Ernster: Was terrible in three games for Pittsburgh. His career average of 39.9 yards isn't very good, but his net is 37.2 and he has 22 fair catches in 104 punts. 2008: 31.6 average, 31.3 net.
Kapinos: Punted five times for a 41.6 average and 40.4 net for the Jets in 2007. Interestingly, his high school coach was former Packers punter Bill Renner. 2008: Out of the league.
Schmitt: Punted at Division II Shepherd University and averaged 44.0 yards as a senior. Failed to make the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He spent a few days on the Steelers' practice squad this season. Has never punted in the NFL.
Player: Player, who will turn 39 on Dec. 17, boasts a career average of 43.1 yards with a net of 37.8. Last year, in three games with Cleveland, he averaged 45.6 yards per punt with a net of 43.4. 2008: Out of the league.
Miller: The 38-year-old boasts career averages of 43.1 per punt and 37.0 net. Has punted in just one game in two seasons, though. 2008: Out of the league.
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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