KANSAS CITY, Mo. -– Marquette King has an extremely powerful leg. The Raiders punter can send volleys as far as anyone, a talent on full display last season. The young talent was unmatched in distance during his first season as starter, with the NFL’s highest gross punt average.
If only that were the ultimate goal.
“Think about it in golf terms,” special teams coach Bobby April said. “Guys who win long-drive contests aren’t on tour. They’re at trade shows and exhibitions because all they do is grip it and rip it. The guys on tour, winning tournaments, have a combination of power and accuracy.”
The analogy turned on a light bulb. It also slightly altered his outlook. Take away the opposing punt returner, at all costs. King developed a series of punts designed to increase hang time, pin an opponent in a corner or give proper spin to a punt designed to pin an someone deep.
“The goal is to put our defense in the best possible position,” King said. “You do that by taking the ball out of the returners hands. At first, it was strange wrapping my head around punting shallow sometimes but, once I started seeing the results, I thought, ‘okay, this is why you wanted me to do these different things.’”
The results have been impressive. His gross punt average is down nearly 3.5 yards, but his net average is up because opponents don’t return many punts. King has punted 83 times, with 31 returns.
That will be particularly important on Sunday in Kansas City, against a Chiefs team ranked No. 6 in punt return average.
He has a 41.2-yard net punt average, a total that would rank equal-second in Raiders history, quite an accomplishment with Ray Guy and Shane Lechler lining the record book.
He’s in line for an all-time mark the Raiders would rather he didn’t get. An average workload puts him on pace to set the franchise record for total punts, a sign of significant offensive struggle.
King’s still in line for positive marks despite such a high volume. He has 26 punts inside the opposing 20-yard line, which ranks equal-second in the NFL. There’s nobody better staying out of the end zone. He has just two touchbacks this year.
“He’s acclimated himself well to doing what’s best for the defensive football team,” April said. “He is the best defensive weapon we have. He can push it farther away from the end zone than anybody on a defensive play. He’s been great at that. His work ethic, character and professionalism are off the charts. He’s really been able to refine his punts near the middle of the field. He was okay, but he didn’t have much touch on those a year ago. Now he does. He’s done a really good job pinning people deep.”
While he likes to let one rip when able, King takes particular pride in dropping unreturnable punts deep in anymore. He’s been excellent in that effort, but believes he can do better.
“I want to improve in every area,” King said. “That net average can certainly go higher, and I don’t want inside the 20 to be the only standard. I want to pin people inside the 15-yard line, inside the 10. My confidence has grown, but I know that there’s plenty of room to get better.”