It was encouraging to see the Los Angeles Rams finally clicking on all cylinders heading into the bye week. Although the offense is much improved and the defense has begun to look like its dominant self, the one constant for Los Angeles has been the performance of their special teams.
The majority of the praise has rightfully gone to kicker Greg Zuerlein after being named the conference’s Player of the Month. However, general manager Les Snead feels punter Johnny Hekker has been one of the team’s most valuable pieces, according to Ben Shpigel of the New York Times:
“Pound for pound, the best value I’ve gotten for any player has been Johnny Hekker,” Snead said. “Not just that he’s a starting punter, which would have been a success. He’s a former quarterback who can run some legit fakes – and, oh, by the way, he’s a college free agent who might be the best punter to ever punt in the NFL.”
While Snead’s praise may be a bit much for a punter, Hekker does indeed bring tremendous versatility to one of the game’s most underrated positions. Not only does he have one of the best legs in football, but his quarterback pedigree allows him to see and do things that other punters are normally incapable of.
Hekker has followed up on a historic 2016 NFL season by ranking third in net average(45.5). With the offense so heavily improved from last season, his opportunities now come fewer and far in between. However, he has still managed to make the most of them. He currently ranks top-10 in punts downed inside the 20, despite taking the second-fewest attempts in the league.