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Was Thomas Morstead as good as NY Jets fans think?

Thomas Morstead, NY Jets, NFL, Punter
Thomas Morstead, New York Jets, Getty Images

Was Morstead as good for the New York Jets as is widely assumed?

One of the biggest upgrades Joe Douglas made to the New York Jets’ roster in the 2023 offseason was replacing the punter. After one too many shanks from Braden Mann, Douglas finally went back to the old faithful whom he should never have let go in the first place: Thomas Morstead. The veteran was thrilled to be back in New York.

Morstead certainly steadied the ship for the Jets, staying under the radar as most good punters do. However, just how good was he really, besides being better than Mann?

For one thing, Morstead had the most punts in the NFL with 99. That skews the raw counting statistics in his favor, as he had far more opportunities to down punts inside the 20. Therefore, it’s more important to look at ratios than the raw numbers.

Statistically, Morstead was mediocre in most traditional punter categories. Here are his numbers and ranks among 32 qualified punters (min. 40 punt attempts).

  • 4.32 hangtime (T-13th)
  • 41.8 average net yards per attempt (16th)
  • 48.8 gross yards per attempt (10th)
  • 48.5% return rate (T-21st)
  • 11.1 yards per return (19th)
  • 8.1% touchback rate (18th)
  • 40.4% inside 20 rate (13th)
  • 72.9 Pro Football Focus punting grade (10th)
  • 0.07 pEPA per punt (T-8th)

What made Morstead the biggest upgrade over Mann was more subtle than raw counting numbers. Yes, Morstead had a better gross and net average, a lower touchback rate, and a higher pEPA per punt than Mann posted in 2022. What Morstead didn’t do, though, was shank punts.

On punts that were not touchbacks or downed inside the 20, 8.3% of Mann’s 2022 punts traveled less than 25 yards. Morstead did not have any of those in 2023. Extending it to 30 yards, Mann had the second-worst rate at 10.4%, while Morstead was at 1.8%.

That being said, Morstead was actually worse than Mann at punting from inside his own 20. Mann posted punts at or below 40 yards on 14.3% of his attempts; Morstead was at 16.7%.

All of this is not to denigrate Morstead. He did the job the Jets brought him in to do. But it’s worth noting that he wasn’t quite as excellent as Jets fans may think.

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