Thursday, December 20, 2012
Around the NFC West: Lee gets the nod
By Mike Sando
Few things get the blood pumping around here quite like a good punter discussion.
Gratuitous punting references obviously drive traffic all around the web. Here in the NFC West, we just happen to be blessed with multiple outstanding punters. I've tried to handle the excess responsibly, but it's just tough not to sensationalize given the subject matter.
I mean, who doesn't get excited about a solid net average? What kid doesn't dream about pinning his opponent inside the 5?
This past week, Andy Lee's 54-yard net average for the San Francisco 49ers was the highest all season in the NFL for any player with four or more punts. That was one reason Mark Simon, ESPN's professor of punting, chose Lee as his punter of the week.
"Lee had three key fourth-quarter punts that netted an average of 55 yards, including a 59-yarder with 3:09 remaining," Simon said. "Lee fared well via advanced metrics as well. He had the second-best expected points added per punt among those with multiple punts. He ranks third in the NFL in punts inside the 20 and second in net average."
Lee was also Simon's choice for punter of the week against Seattle in Week 7 even though some in the punting community thought Arizona's Dave Zastudil might have made a better choice with all five of his punts downed inside the Minnesota 15-yard line that week.
Zastudil, Simon's top punter for Week 4, would have been a worthy choice this week as well.
"After placing a franchise-record six punts inside the 20-yard line in Arizona’s 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions, Zastudil needs to drop just five more inside the opponents’ red zone to have the most by any punter in a single season," Bob McManaman writes in the Arizona Republic. "The record for punts placed inside the 20 is 42 and it’s shared by three punters, including the Cardinals’ Ben Graham in 2009. Andy Lee of the 49ers also did it (2007), as did Steve Weatherford of the Jets (2010)."
Seattle's Jon Ryan has won Simon's award multiple times this season. St. Louis' Johnny Hekker is a one-time winner.