BUFFALO, NY – The sport of rugby is certainly making its impact on the NFL landscape this season.
First it was tackling, with Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll embracing rugby-style tackling and teaching it to his team, and now ruby punts seem to be taking the league by storm. Sure you can argue that this technique has been in the football for years, but now it is finally starting to catch on.
Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt started using the technique a few years back, but has really mastered it now and is reaping the benefits. Colquitt ranks first in Chiefs franchise history with a 44.8-yard gross punting average and 39.3-yard net, which is also good for fifth in the NFL since the 1970 merger.
“I didn’t do it in a game until my fourth year,” said the Chiefs punter, who entered the NFL in 2005. “It took me a couple of years of doing it a bunch to say I’m ready to throw this out in front of a bunch of people. It matches hang time and distance well.”
“A rugby punt doesn’t go as far as an open-field punt, but it hangs up there nice. It makes return guys want to fair catch.”
While Colquitt doesn’t rank in the upper half of the league in punting average, he’s the best in the NFL with punts inside the 20-yard line.
“Dustin is a great weapon for us,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said, according to The Kansas City Star. “When you get down to the part of the field, where it’s the 35-yard line, the 38-yard line, sometimes you want to play defense. You want to punt ’em down there and pin ’em and play defense and not go for the long field goal. We have confidence that Cairo (Santos) can make long field goals, but when you have a guy like Dustin … and really good gunners on the coverage unit, that gives you that opportunity, depending on what the game is, and whether, to go ahead and play defense.”
For Colquitt, the key is to drop the ball with the nose down when punting.
“You drop the nose down as opposed to a level drop, and you hit it the bottom third of the ball, end over end like a kickoff,” said the 32-year-old. “It allows you to have a little more control of the ball. You’re seeing less touchbacks and more offenses where you want them to be.”
And so far, it’s been working as the Chiefs are 7-4 and in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
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