Rookie JK Scott inherits Packers' punting job after Justin Vogel's release
GREEN BAY – Asked what he considers a quality punt, the Green Bay Packers rookie that general manager Brian Gutekunst called a “rare” talent didn’t start with numbers, but instead the one trait his predecessor lacked: consistency.
JK Scott, whom the Packers drafted in the fifth round Saturday, said Friday he measures his hang time against distance. A 45-yard punt, he said, should come with at least a 4.5-second hang time, while a 50-yard punt should be at least 5.0 seconds. The farther the kick, the higher.
Most important, Scott said quality punting isn’t hitting a specific number, but how often that standard is met.
“With hang time and distance,” Scott said, “you always want to be kind of similar.”
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It’s one area of improvement Packers special teams coordinator Ron Zook regularly mentioned with punter Justin Vogel’s performance last season. The Packers granted Vogel’s request for a release Friday, clearing the way for Scott to be their starter.
It’s a familiar situation for Scott, who punted for four years at Alabama. While in college, Scott said, his only competition came from walk-ons.
Which is to say, Scott was never losing his job in Tuscaloosa.
It’s unlikely Vogel was going to beat out Scott after the Packers invested a draft pick in the rookie. Still, Gutekunst’s decision to switch punters could be a risk.
Vogel was perhaps the Packers' best rookie last season, finishing seventh in the NFL with a team-record 41.6-yard net average. It was the first time a Packers punter finished in the league’s top 10 since Jon Ryan in 2007. Before Ryan, the last Packers punter to finish as high as Vogel did last season was David Beverly in 1979.
Since then, only five Packers punters have finished in the top 10: Don Bracken (1987, tied-10th), Sean Landeta (1998, ninth), Josh Bidwell (2001, eighth) and Ryan (2007, third).
One possible destination for Vogel could be within the NFC North. Vogel chose to sign as an undrafted rookie last season with the Packers over the Minnesota Vikings. Regardless of where he goes next, Vogel stands a good chance of finding another team.
“I think my results this year are good,” Vogel said near the end of last season, “but I don’t think that’s anywhere close to the limit of the numbers I can put up.”
Former general manager Ted Thompson made the mistake of releasing Ryan after his breakthrough 2007 season. Ryan went on to punt for the Seattle Seahawks the past 10 years. The Packers surely hope they haven’t repeated the error with Vogel.
At least this time, they are better equipped to move on with Scott positioned as their punter for the foreseeable future. Scott was asked Friday what makes him a “rare” punter, and his self-scouting report was revealing.
“The big part of punting,” he said, “is consistency.”