With Jeremy Kapinos, the Packers rank 31st in net punting.
Nonetheless, Kapinos disagreed with the notion that he's unhappy with his performance.
"I don't think I'd agree with that. I think it's a mixed bag," Kapinos said on Thursday. "I can definitely perform better. I'm 14th in the NFL in gross punting; I need to get the net up. I could be more productive, definitely. I'm not by any means dissatisfied. You can always do better and I can do better, but, no, I'm down on myself."
Kapinos' positive outlook notwithstanding, the Packers' punting situation has been a disappointment. Kapinos ranked second in the NFL with a 43.0-yard net average during the preseason. But at close to the midpoint of the regular season, his net has sagged to 33.9 yards. He's averaged a net of 30 yards or less in three of seven games — including the Cincinnati game in Week 2, when Quan Cosby's two long returns gave the Bengals 10 points.
"It annoys me," Kapinos said of his net average. "It needs to be better, it should be better. Obviously, you never want to be that low. I'll do my best and I'll grind it out, just like you normally would to try to improve. The difference between my gross and my net needs to be smaller. I'll take the proper steps to ensure that net average comes up."
Kapinos echoed what coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said this week. Kapinos has a punt of at least 51 yards in five of seven games. In three of those games, however, he gave up a long return. On Kapinos' 51-yarder against Minnesota on Sunday, Jaymar Johnson returned it 20 yards — and was drilled by Kapinos — to set up the Vikings' 51-yard touchdown drive.
"I need to hit less 50-yard punts, in truth," Kapinos said.
When the Packers jettisoned big-legged Jon Ryan at the end of last year's training camp, he was faulted for giving up too many long returns and for his poor performance in the situational breakdowns.
In 2007 with Ryan, the Packers ranked 15th in gross punting (43.0 average), 11th in net punting (37.6 average), 15th in fair catches (14), 25th in inside-the-20 punts (18) and a woeful 31st in touchbacks (11). This year with Kapinos, the Packers rank 11th in gross punting (45.0 average), 31st in net (33.9 average), 32nd in fair catches (on pace for seven), 28th in inside-the-20 punts (on pace for 16) and tied for 14th in touchbacks (on pace for seven).
"Most notably, we need to make some of these returners fair catch the ball. If we do that, then there's no return, obviously," Slocum said.
Slocum said Kapinos had perhaps his best practice of the year — training camp included — on Thursday.
"I think Jeremy could do a better job. He knows that," McCarthy said. "That's been addressed. I think he could be more consistent with the ball placement. I would like to see him carry over what he's accomplishing in the practice field and his workouts. I think he's improved vastly in his work since the spring, training camp, and during the practice week. But he can definitely improve his performance."
Of course, that was the mantra with Derrick Frost last year. Frost, an accomplished veteran who arrived in Green Bay with a much stronger situational resume than Ryan, had a brilliant season debut last year against Minnesota but fell on his face for the rest of the season. When his strong practices failed to carry over to gamedays, the Packers dropped Frost and picked up Kapinos for the final four games.
For the record, Ryan ranks second in the NFL in gross average (48.3 average) but 17th in net (38.0) for Seattle.
Kapinos' challenge will only get harder after Sunday's game at Tampa Bay. With the exception of Thanksgiving at Detroit and the season finale at Arizona, the rest of the games potentially will be played in inclement weather.
"Obviously, you look at the top gross guys in the NFL, the top 10 with the exception of maybe (Buffalo's) Brian Moorman are either out west or in a dome," Kapinos said. "It's a challenge. Green Bay is a difficult place to punt. Being the 11th or 10th punter in 10 years, I understand that."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.