Raiders punter Marquette King was never bored last season. He vaulted 109 punts toward the sky thanks to a subpar offense that couldn’t sustain drives regularly.
This season has been different. King hasn’t been as busy, but he’s been cruelly efficient this season.
King ranks second in the NFL with 39 punts within the opponent’s 20-yard line, a whopping total compared to just four touchbacks.
That dichotomy speaks to King’s evolution. He used to be a touchback machine, with power to spare and touch in need of refinement. King has found success with high, directional punts near impossible to return. That often comes at distance’s expense, but it has made King one of the best punters around. He deserves credit for two victories in the past two weeks, when he controlled the battle for field position against Denver and San Diego.
“I think he’s a young player that is gaining confidence,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He is certainly still developing. He is a player that has a lot of raw talent that is still refining himself. He should have room to grow and continue to ascend as a player in this league, but he’s done a nice job.”
The NFL rewarded his efforts by naming King the special teams player of the week. The honor followed a victory over San Diego where King dropped six of eight punts inside the 20-yard line without a touchback to speak of and allowed just two yards in return.
That type performance has become common for King, who has been a real weapon in the Raiders’ battle for field position.
Such progress could come at a price. King is ready to enter his first year of unrestricted free agency, and should expect a salary increase this season. Sources have long indicated the Raiders want to keep King in house, and it should take a longer-term contract to get that done.
“He’s worked hard at his craft,” Del Rio said. “I think (special teams coordinator) coach (Brad) Seely working on the hands and the catching the ball and the placement and all those things, all the duties that are aside from just kicking the ball and kicking it as far as you can. He has learned how to use directional punts. He’s still not entirely comfortable with the idea, but he’s getting better at it. He’s certainly gotten better at not just pounding the ball into the end zone and having touchbacks where we have an opportunity to really pin them down. So I think those are some of the areas where he’s made progress.”