Thomas Morstead is tearing it up for the New York Jets
When the New York Jets scooped longtime Saints punter Thomas Morstead off the street in Week 2 to fill in for the injured Braden Mann, all they were hoping to get was competency while they waited for Mann to complete his four-to-six-week recovery timetable for a knee sprain suffered in the season opener.
But they’ve gotten much more than that.
A weekly ranking of punters shared by the Twitter account Puntalytics features Morstead as one of the NFL’s most effective field-flippers through six weeks of play.
— Puntalytics (@ThePuntRunts) October 19, 2021
The leaderboard is concocted using the metric “Punter EPA (estimated points added) per punt above expected,” which essentially calculates the true field-position value of each punt when adjusting for various factors.
Morstead ranks fourth-best with an average of just under +0.2 EPA per punt above expected, trailing only New Orleans’ Blake Gillikin (his replacement), Detroit’s Jack Fox, and Las Vegas’ A.J. Cole.
The location of each punt is a huge variable that goes into this metric. Compared to when punting from their own 10-yard line, punters cannot gain as much net yardage when punting from, say, the opponent’s 45-yard line. This metric compares each punt to the league-average expectancy of punts from that exact location, giving us a more accurate read on a punter’s impact than raw yardage totals.
Thanks largely to Morstead, coordinator Brant Boyer‘s Jets special teams unit is ranked as the NFL’s eighth-best overall group according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
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Morstead was selected by the Saints in the fifth round of the 2009 draft out of SMU. He would play 13 seasons in New Orleans, winning a Super Bowl as a rookie and quickly establishing himself as one of the better punters in the league. His career average of 46.5 yards per punt ranks seventh-best in NFL history.
New Orleans released Morstead in March 2021. The 35-year-old punter remained on the open market until the Jets snatched him in September.
Mann’s injury against the Panthers occurred just over five weeks ago as of Wednesday, Oct. 20. Considering that he remains on injured reserve, his recovery timetable of four to six weeks suggests that his return could happen next week as long as he is on schedule.
New York will have some interesting decisions to make at the punter position once Mann returns.
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