By: Kyle Ratke USA Today
We’ve joked about punter Jeff Locke being the Vikings’ best player. While this probably isn’t true, Locke has had a pretty special 2016 after being mediocre through his career.
Locke has a net average of 41.1 yards per punt this season, ninth in the NFL. He’s also placed 28 punts inside the 20, second in the NFL. To put that in perspective, Locke had just 23 punts inside the 20 last season.
He’s a big reason why the Vikings haven’t gotten penalized for having such a stagnant offense.
“Jeff’s been hitting the ball very, very well and I wouldn’t say his punts were bombs away,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said on Monday. “I think if he gets a 50-yard punt, it’s around 4.7-4.8 hang time. That’s a really good punt. We use the 48 – 4.8, you know 48 yards and 4.8 seconds hang time is kind of the gauge. If it’s 45 (yards), then 4.5 (hang time). If it’s 50 (yards), then closer to 5.0 (hang time) and he’s had several of those. I think his punt the other night was a 5.2 hang time. So, he’s hitting the ball very, very well. He’s confident. We’re protecting him well, we’re covering well, our gunners are doing a good job and we’ve got to keep that up.”
The Vikings will need Locke, along with everyone else, to be on their game if they want to upset the Cowboys on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.