Although the season doesn’t start for three more months, it’s not too early to check in on the punting competition, especially given how poorly things went at the position last season in Washington.
After ranking at the bottom of the league in net average in 2013 and being hurt by some ill-timed shanks, the Redskins dumped 40-year old Sav Rocca and brought in two young punters—Robert Malone, 26, and Blake Clingan, 25—to compete for the job.
And although it remains unclear if either has an early edge, we know this much: the Redskins expect one of them to be their punter in 2014.
“We feel good with where they are,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “You know this is early, this is OTAs but [special teams coordinator Ben] Kotwica is working with them and he feels confident that we have our punter here on our roster right now.”
Malone is the more experienced of the two, having spent all of the 2012 season with Kotwica as a member of the Jets and two games in New York last season before being released. Malone has also played for the Buccaneers and Lions and has a career average of 44.5 yards per punt.
Clingan, meantime, spent last offseason with the Lions but has never appeared in an NFL game.
“Malone is banging them,” Gruden said. “Both of them are banging them. Malone has hit the roof in the [practice] bubble a couple times. He’s got a powerful leg and Blake has done a nice job. So it will be an interesting competition but I do feel strongly that we will find our punter in one of those two guys."
But that probably won’t be decided until some point in the preseason, which begins Aug. 7 against the Patriots.
“You’ve got [to evaluate them] in game-type situations,” Gruden said. “It’s easy to putt on a practice green [but] sometimes when you get on a real golf course, the three footers are a little bit tougher.”