Friday, October 4, 2013
Bengals punt unit in good hands with Huber
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- You typically only notice a punter until he or members of his coverage unit do something wrong.
That might be why you haven't read much about Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber this season.
To "do something wrong" usually means a coverage unit has allowed a punt returner to torch his way to gains of 20 or more yards, or break off a momentum-changing touchdown return. It is those times when all eyes settle upon the guy who kicks the ball. Ask now former Bills punter Shawn Powell all about that. He was released Friday after Cleveland punt returner Travis Benjamin torched Buffalo's special-teamers on seven returns for 179 yards, including a score, in the Browns' win Thursday night.
Even though Powell saved one touchdown with a tackle on a long Benjamin return, he couldn't negate the other as the speedy returner nimbly cut past him. It's moments like that when a punter gets all the attention he doesn't otherwise receive.
|Bengals punter Kevin Huber has neutralized some of the NFL's top return men this season.|
When a punter is doing his job, recognition often can be hard to come by.
For that reason, ESPN Stats & Info's Mark Simon decided three years ago to issue weekly awards to let football fans know how well various punters have performed.
Huber has already been listed on Simon's punter of the week awards twice through four weeks. Although he doesn't lead the league in any statistical categories, he has been good enough to stay out of the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Here's what Simon said about Huber's performance against the Browns in last Sunday's 17-6 Bengals loss, as he named him the punter of Week 4:
It's rare that we would pick a player from a losing team, but Huber earned it. Despite posting the second-lowest gross punting average of the week (38.8 yards), Huber did just about everything right.
Huber had two punts that were fair catches at the 5 and 8, and had another go out of bounds at the 9. The Browns began three possessions inside their own 10 as a result of Huber's punts.
The problem is that two of those drives resulted in touchdowns. Cincinnati's defense wasn't able to hold on the 90-yard series and allowed 14 of the Browns' 17 points off them.
As much as the Bengals would like to clean up the defensive breakdowns that led to those two scores, here is another reason why they have to be pleased with Huber's efforts so far this season. In each of the Bengals' four games, he has done admirable work playing keep-away with some of the league's best returners. Along with Benjamin, the combination of the Packers' Jeremy Ross and Randall Cobb ranked among the top 13 in punt return yard average. Even though he hasn't been very good this season, Chicago's Devin Hester is always a touchdown threat, too.
In Cincinnati's four games, Huber has ...
- Held Hester, an eight-year specialist with 12 career punt return touchdowns, to a two-return, 1-yard showing in Week 1.
- Got a little beat up by Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, who had two returns for 37 yards in Week 2. That was enough for an 18.5-yard average.
- Completely silenced the combination of Ross and Cobb. The pair wasn't able to return any of his three punts in Week 3.
- Limited Benjamin to 7 yards on one return, all while punting to him four times total in Week 4.
Huber has another challenge this week when he faces New England's Julian Edelman
. With 11 returns, Edelman is averaging 12.1 yards per punt return this season.