While ESPN’s Sir Mort reports JaMarcus Russell will make his NFL starting debut on December 2, the San Francisco Chronicle’s David White profiles Oakland’s only viable Pro Bowl candidate, punter Shane Lechler.
With a 49.9-yard gross average and 44.5-yard net average, Lechler is in position to be the first NFL punter with a 50-yard gross and 40-yard net in a single season. As it stands, his career gross average of 46.4 yards per punt is an ongoing NFL record.
Forgive Raiders fans if they have a hard time appreciating all this. They’re usually too busy booing the offense off the field after some failed 3rd-and-20 to cheer yet another Lechler appearance. Every swing of his right leg is yet another reminder of how bad the offense has played for two seasons.
At least Lechler feels appreciated by the people who matter most to him: family, teammates and new special-teams coordinator Brian Schneider, who all but nominated Lechler for Time’s Man of the Year this week.
“I think he’s as good of a person you can be around,” said Schneider, who, unlike Daisher in one game last year, has yet to challenge Lechler or other players to a sideline fight during a game.
“He’s had great averages over the years,” first-year Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. “It was more about net and more about pinning them deep instead of touchbacks. His touchback percentage is way down, which has been huge.”
Indeed, Lechler has sent only two of 43 punts in the end zone in nine games. One of those was a 70-yard punt at Tennessee that landed 10 yards deep into the end zone, inspiring oohs and aahs from Titans’ fans.
Fifteen punts have stopped inside the 20 – he had 19 all of last season – with seven downed inside the 10.
Lechler is one of those punters who keeps score of such matters. He quotes prehistoric punting numbers that aren’t even found in the NFL Record and Fact Book. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is bound to accept its first punter at some point, so Lechler might as well get his numbers in order now.