Kapinos Gets Challenger

We examine the Packers' punting situation after the team signed former Kentucky standout Tim Masthay. What are Masthay's strengths? And what did Jeremy Kapinos do right and wrong during his first season as a full-time punter?

Thirty-two punters punted the ball at least 32 times this season. The Green Bay Packers' Jeremy Kapinos ranked 31st among them in net average.

So, not surprisingly, the Packers have signed someone to push Kapinos during offseason practices.

The team announced they added Tim Masthay on Friday evening. A four-year punter at Kentucky, he ranked fifth nationally in 2008 with an average of 45.3 yards during his senior season. The Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent but he never had a chance to beat out seventh-round pick Pat McAfee and was released when Jim Sorgi was hurt and the Colts needed a quarterback early in camp. Eric Hartz, who covers the Colts for Scout.com, said McAfee had the better leg but Mashtay had good hang time.

Masthay worked out for Tampa Bay about a week after his release and in October for New England but was not signed by either team.

"Tim Masthay is a hard-working but inconsistent punter," Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber said in his pre-draft analysis. "He's a good athlete who has a nice frame but a lean build. He lacks technique and is only marginal on directional punts, but has above average leg strength to get off some boomers. He has experience as a kickoff specialist and a holder. He's deliberate on his punts and the opposition always has a chance to block it."

The 6-foot-2 Masthay has a powerful leg but is something of a project, which even the coaches at Kentucky recognized. During his senior season, Masthay was replaced by Ryan Tydlacka when the Wildcats needed a pooch punt. Of his 53 punts as a senior, 17 traveled at least 50 yards — plus, 23 of his 60 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

The bigger issue to scouts last year was his deliberate approach — he had two punts blocked during his senior season — and lack of directional kicking skills.

Jeremy Kapinos
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
However it plays out, the Packers need better than they got from Kapinos this season. After kicking in one game for the Jets as a rookie in 2007 and the final four games for the Packers in 2008, Kapinos' 43.8-yard average ranked a respectable 16th, so special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum believes Kapinos has the leg strength to be a quality punter.

"Jeremy's on an NFL roster for a reason," Slocum said. "He has the talent to do that. I thought he progressed as the season went on. We actually won the net punt battle in several of our finishing games over our opponents. Jeremy and I have spent quite a bit of time developing plans starting now in what he's going to do as he moves forward and he comes back ultimately for the offseason program, and we'll move forward from there. And the big thing is, sometimes it takes punters a little bit of time to get all the things that are necessary and get acclimated to the NFL game, and I look forward to him continuing to move forward."

However, his net average of 34.1 yards was just inches better than last-ranked Chris Hanson of New England. His 403 yards of returns were the sixth-most, even though he had 33 fewer punts than San Francisco's Andy Lee, who allowed the most return yards in the NFL (495). Kapinos' seven fair catches were the fewest among punters with at least 32 attempts.

Almost a bigger sin was Kapinos' directional skills. His 15 punts inside the 20-yard line tied for 31st in the NFL, and his ratio of inside-the-20 punts to touchbacks (15 to 10) was easily the worst in the league.

"I'm fine with his overall technique," Slocum said. "The challenge for a kicker or a punter is to repeat the positive technique each time. From a production standpoint, we have to get better at kicking the ball higher — hang time punts to force fair catches, good production inside the 20, and that number will really affect us in a positive way."

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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, 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.

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