The Denver Broncos head into the 2009 season with few questions in the kicking game. Matt Prater is the only kicker on the roster and is certainly a lock for the starting position barring any setbacks. However, there is an interesting battle at the punting position that yields as many questions as it does answers.
#5 / Kicker / Denver Broncos
Aug 10, 1984
2009: $460,000, 2010: Restricted Free Agent
|2008 Matt Prater stats|
|FG ATT||FGM||PCT||LNG||XP ATT||XPM||PCT||KO||AVG||TB||RET||AVG|
Matt Prater, in my view had a pretty average year. Many fans have already written him off as a failure, but history has shown that his first full season as a starter is fairly typical of even the greatest kickers of modern times. For example, in Jason Elam's first full season his field goal percentage was 74.3. Adam Vinatieri was just 77.1% in his first full season and even the venerable Morton Andersen made 75% of his kicks in his first full season as a starter back in 1983.
I know TheSportsGuru(aka John) has already made this point during one of his radio broadcasts, but it is a telling point to make. It also shows why Josh McDaniels has decided to put his full faith and confidence into Prater heading into the 2009 season. We should expect to see him improve and hopefully secure him as our kicker for the next decade.
#1 / Punter / Denver Broncos
Feb 16, 1986
5/1/2009: Signed a three-year, $1.170 million contract. The deal included a $15,000 signing bonus. 2009: $385,000, 2010: $475,000, 2011: Restricted Free Agent
|2008 Brett Kern stats|
|PUNTS||YDS||NET||LNG||AVG||NET AVG||IN 20||TB||FC||RET||YDS||TD|
Brett Kern had a pretty solid rookie year. There is no question he can kick a long ways, but there is much more to being a punter than just kicking the ball far. I was a big (as big as one can be on a punter) supporter of Sam Paulescu last season because he had an ability to place the ball in the right spot. Mike Shanahan disagreed and went with the bigger leg over the more accurate kicker. The result, many big kicks and also many big returns by the opposing teams.
To average 46.7 yards per punt is huge in the NFL, but even that number isn't so great in today's NFL. Out of 46 punts, only 13 were downed inside the twenty-yard line. That is unacceptable in my view. That tells me that most of his kicks inside the twenty were returned. It is my hope that Kern continues to work on his placement. Even if that means he has to sacrifice some of his power and distance. I'd rather see a towering 40-yard kick that goes for no return than a booming 55-yard kick that is returned for a touchdown!
This signing by the Broncos has me a bit puzzled. He seems like a bit of a head case and a risk that Josh McDaniels doesn't really need in his first year as head coach. Britton Colquitt was suspended for the Tennessee Vols' first five games of the 2008 season and stripped of his scholarship when he was arrested for a DUI after hitting a parked car and a tree stump before being stopped by police.
By itself, that wouldn't appear to be too big of a problem, however, he was also suspended as a Freshman after he was busted for several alcohol-related incidents. The history alone should have sent McDaniels and Xanders running for the hills, but apparently they see something in this kid and though it doesn't hurt them financially to cut the rookie; it could be embarrassing to the organization if Colquitt ends up behind bars this offseason.
Those concerns aside, the kid obviously has some talent at the punting position. He has a monster leg and also has a knack for placing the ball in the right positions. I hope he finds a way to get a handle on his drinking problem, or his tenure in this league will be very short. If you'd like to see what kind of leg he has, here is a video of a 71-yard punt that was downed at the opponent's 3-yard line.
There is also the fact that Colquitt is the fourth member of his family to break into the NFL. That could also have played into the decision to bring him aboard. I hope he decides to keep his life in check and leave the drink alone, because he could become a solid NFL punter one day.
I honestly do not see Britton Colquitt seriously challenging for Brett Kern's job this season. I am not sure if we keep him on the practice squad either, but it is obvious to me that the Broncos need to keep themselves insulated from his past and the only way to do that is to keep Kern on the roster. Kern and Prater will be our starters in 2009, but I must admit that Colquitt in 2010 would be an intriguing proposition to me if he stays out of trouble.