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Tuesday, October 29, 2013
A week to revisit Mesko vs. Allen

By Mike Reiss

At the end of the preseason, the New England Patriots made the tough decision to go with rookie punter Ryan Allen over incumbent Zoltan Mesko.

This is a timely week to revisit the move, as Mesko -- one of the most likeable Patriots players in recent years -- returns to town Sunday as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here is the tale of the tape:

Allen
Mesko
In seven games, Mesko ranks 31st in punting average (42.5) and 29th in net punting average (36.7), with two touchbacks and three punts inside the 20 (including a beauty this past Sunday in Oakland that was downed at the 1). Mesko has punted 34 times. This past Sunday against the Raiders, he had a punt partially blocked as a result of what appeared to be a slight mishandling of the snap coupled with a missed block by tight end David Paulson.

In eight games, Allen ranks 12th in punting average (46.2) and 14th in net punting average (40.4), with an NFL-high seven touchbacks and 16 inside the 20. Allen has punted 47 times (tied for second highest in the NFL).

Earlier today, Bill Belichick was asked about Allen's performance this season.

"I think Ryan has had his moments, for sure," he said. "Through some of the situations he’s been in, I think his situational punting has been pretty good. He’s improved in the plus-50 areas. He’s definitely got a big leg and the ability to change field position. I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement.

"He’s got a good level of talent but also consistency is an issue and these conditions that he’s in, kicking through the second half of the season up here will be, I’m sure, challenging at some point. They’ve definitely been that way in practice. That’s the way it was against Miami on Sunday. I think you saw both punters not have the type of days that we’d see them having in better conditions. ... If he keeps working hard and can stay focused and can stay consistent, I think he has a good opportunity for a real good career."

Belichick added that Allen has also performed well as the holder for kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: When the Patriots made the move, financial considerations were part of it. Mesko was due to earn $1.3 million this season, in the last year of his deal. Allen is making $405,000 on the first year of a three-year rookie contract. But finances weren't the primary driver for the decision, as Allen had clearly shown great potential in training camp. Mesko, from our view, was just more consistent. Both are punting in the NFL, although Mesko's job security has come into focus after an up-and-down performance Sunday in Oakland. To this point, it's hard to argue with the Patriots' decision.