In the latest turn of events, Charger’s punter and former holder Drew Kaser was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his turnaround contribution to the Bolts’ victory over the Broncos on Thursday. He put four of his five punts inside the 20 and had a punt average of 47 yards. His longest went 60 yards.
I’ll be the first to admit that after, even during, Kaser’s dreadful showing in the Chargers’ loss to the Raiders on October 9, I was calling for his immediate release. During that game he shanked a punt and sent it only 16 yards. Sadly, that wasn’t even the first time he kicked one under 20 yards this season. In the opener against KC he sent one only 17 yards, leaving it in Chargers’ territory, leading to a Chiefs touchdown. While the short kick was ridiculous and costly, it wasn’t even his worst mistake.
During that same game against the Raiders, Kaser who had been kicker Josh Lambo‘s holder up until that point, mishandled a potential game tying field goal and discarded any chance the Chargers would have to come away with a win. It was unbelievable. When asked by the press about the play, Kaser’s response was an unsatisfying, “We’ve got to go back to the film and see what happened.” Fans weren’t too happy with his statement because it seemed pretty obvious what had happened. He literally dropped the ball. We were looking for some more accountability.
So while there were those of us who wanted Kaser to get his walking papers after week five, the Chargers took a more conservative route. Kaser kept his job as punter but lost his duty as holder; being replaced by backup quarterback Kellen Clemens. It seems that the Chargers made a decent decision, as the next week Kaser had the aforementioned bounce back performance against Denver.
Realistically, Drew Kaser does have the potential to become an elite punter. The mistakes he has made so far are inexcusable for an NFL player, but he is a rookie and may very well put his troubles behind him. Kaser left Texas A&M with the second highest punt average (46.2) in NCAA history and punted 168 times for 7,761 yards, including 60 punts placed inside the 20. In his sophomore year he was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to only the most prestigious punters. At Texas A&M he was Lambo’s holder and even held for Lambo’s first game winning field goal against Ole Miss in 2013. Who knows, maybe if and when the coaching staff determines that Kaser has built up enough confidence, they’ll allow the duo to reform, and give Kaser another shot at holder. Of course that’s a big if.
What I’ve noticed about the conversation surrounding Kaser over the last few weeks, is that it has been based on emotion. Everybody has been on edge because, by in large, the Chargers have had such a heartbreaking season so far. The games haven’t been blowouts. If they had been, I believe the losses would be easier to swallow. Games have been tight; often blown leads. Not to mention the fate of the team’s existence in San Diego is hanging in the balance. We are just a very fragile fan base at the moment and I think that we are wearing our hearts on our sleeves, and that’s okay. Like I said, after week five I myself was vying for a new punter, but after week six I was getting back on the Kaser wagon.
While I think that my response to Kaser in week five was an overreaction, I don’t want to overreact to one week of success for Kaser either. I think the reality is that he is a rookie and there will be some growing pains, maybe even a few more minor slip-ups. The Chargers, of course, can’t afford to lose games, so there are only so many chances they can give. I acknowledge that Kaser showed some excellence in his college career and there’s definitely potential for that to translate to the NFL. Last week he was the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Let’s see what he does this week.