The best camp battle has to be in Oakland, the battle of the PUNTERS

The Oakland Raiders let long tenured punter Shane Lechler leave, without really extending an offer to him.  They let him leave because they had a kid on the injured reserve from last year named Marquette King.  Marquette is a big kid, that looks like a wide receiver.  King is a guy you would not want to meet in the alley way in the middle of the night, and the sad thing is he is a punter.  Well after impressing Raiders staff last year, the team felt they had a player who could come in right away and take over, but he would need to work on consistency and getting rid of the ball quicker.  King has worked on that and his the coaches are taking notice, but is it enough to beat out NFL veteran Chris Kluwe?

Kluwe was brought in earlier this year to compete with King, because Reggie McKenzie’s new approach is everyone on this team will work to earn a spot.  So by bringing in Kluwe, it looked as if King could become expendable.  Well not so fast Raiders fans, King seemed to definitely take out his competitive shirt and put it on.  While Kluwe is the punter that will get you a consistent 45 yard punts, King has the potential to punt the ball 80 plus yards and give you a 5 plus second hang time kick.  King is younger than Kluwe and has continued to grow this off-season.  The head coach even said the gap is closing.

“I’ve been impressed with what Marquette’s been able to do over the last probably week and a half of training camp and what he was able to do in the last two preseason games so the gap is definitely closed,” Head Coach Dennis Allen said

In their first two preseason games, going head to head, Kluwe and King both had one punt. Kluwe’s came off the side of his foot for 36 yards and King’s was a sky shot that the return man couldn’t handle – despite calling for a fair catch – and the Raiders recovered the muffed fielding. That punt by King was timed at 5.1 seconds in the air, which is .16 seconds longer than the average punter in the NFL.

In their second preseason game, King averaged an eye-popping 57.4 yards per punt compared to Kluwe’s 49.3 yards per punt. Both of King’s punts were ridiculous again with 4.98 hang time and 5.02 hang time.  When you think of the Raiders you have to take into account that their gunners are probably two of the faster guys in the NFL (It’s a Joke, Raider like fast guys).  No matter the speed, if King keeps kicking huge hang time punts, I could become a gunner.  I know special teams legendary coach Bobby April is loving King and his abilities.  Bobby April loves athletic players, if you remember Brian Moorman for the Bills, April would always utilize him to fake a punt because of his speed.  King is a fast, athletic punter, who could probably take off on a fake punt and get the first down.  One thing is for sure, he will not be easy to bring down.

When I look at this battle, I have to give Kluwe a ton of credit, the guy is consistent.  He is a great holder, and he does probably have the upper hand on King in that regard, but when it comes to pure talent, can you really let King walk? Last year the Raiders placed the former HBCU standout from Fort Valley State on the I/R, but I don’t think you can keep Marquette a secret for long.  I think King will ultimately win this job, and if he does,  he needs to walk up to Chris Kluwe and thank him.  Kluwe has made King really focus on his work, and made him ultimately a better punter.

Sometimes when we feel we are great at something, we need a person to come in and compete with us to make us better. Why? Because we are not putting forth everything we could. I am not saying King was not putting forth the best effort, what I am saying is that King has really taken this competition to another level, and because of that I feel he will walk out with the Starting Punter role come week 1.

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