With the lack of consistency displayed by the Denver Broncos’ offense this year, punter Britton Colquitt was called on to punt 84 times, the eighth-highest total in the league. Despite lacking a powerful leg by NFL standards, Colquitt was able to post a productive year by virtue of his directional punting game, which is among the best in the NFL. Chuck Zodda shows you which way to look when Colquitt is punting this weekend.
Britton Colquitt does not stand out when viewing either traditional or advanced punting statistics. His gross average of 43.6 yards per punt ranks 28th in the league, with his net average of 39.7 yards per punt only slightly better at 21st. This can be heavily influenced by field position, but Colquitt’s target distance punted (TDP) clocks in at 96%, and he is worse in pin deep situations, with TDP of 93% in those scenarios compared to 97% in open field punts.
While distance is not a strength for Colquitt, his directional game is outstanding. 56 of his 84 punts landed outside either the left or right numbers this year, and he displays tremendous control to both sides of this field. This masterful directional game allows Colquitt to compensate for his relatively-weak leg. Colquitt has the 11th lowest punts-returned percentage, and when opposing teams attempt a return, they manage just 6.9 yards per return on average, good for 12th in the league. While the Denver punt unit is not elite using these metrics, they show they are closer to a league-average squad than one toiling near the back of the pack.
To The Left
Punting from the Denver 27-yard line in the season-opener against the Baltimore Ravens, Colquitt (#4) lines up to kick from the left hash:
Colquitt uncorks a bomb, with the punt traveling 55 yards with 4.93 seconds of hang time. This is the highest and farthest a kick travels in the air for Colquitt all year, but his directional ability is top-notch despite the rare power he displays here:
Ravens returner Steve Smith (#89) catches the ball, tiptoeing down the sideline to avoid stepping out on the perfectly placed kick. The Denver punt coverage is still 20 yards away, but the placement of the kick prevents Smith from getting up-field, or being able to go to his right:
The Broncos close the distance quickly and evenly, giving Smith few options for escape. He is brought down at the Baltimore 30-yard line after a 10-yard return. Colquitt targeted this location on 24 out of 84 punts this year, but his favorite location is actually toward the right sideline.
To The Right
Colquitt has boomed a ridiculous 32 of 84 punts outside the right numbers this year, which is phenomenal accuracy for a punter, and places him among the top directional specialists in the game with Ravens punter Sam Koch. Punting against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15, Colquitt lines up to punt from the Denver 18-yard line:
Lining up slightly inside the right hash, he takes the snap and blasts a kick down the right sideline:
Returner Antonio Brown (#84) tracks the ball outside the numbers, waiting for the punt to finish its 52-yard, 4.31-second flight. One knock on Colquitt is that his added distance on punts, such as this one, typically comes from a lower trajectory, rather than more flight time. This can result in him out-kicking his coverage at times, though the right gunner is in great position to make a play here:
The gunner maintains strong outside leverage, and should ideally aim his tackle at the returner’s opposite shoulder to prevent him from cutting back around the backside of the gunner. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Brown’s quickness prevents a clean tackle. But the gunner maintains his responsibilities and forces Brown into the path of his coverage unit, who eventually tackles him after a 10-yard gain.
There is nothing flashy about Colquitt, but he possesses a nuanced style that allows Denver to control the punt game well despite his distance limitations. Colquitt posted TDP of 99.5% during the Broncos’ Divisional Round game, which was a major step up for him, as the last six weeks of the regular season saw him struggle with TDP of just 93%. While his directional control is incredibly strong, the Broncos need to see his distance closer to last week’s numbers rather than what he posted at the end of the regular season in what is sure to be a tight game against the New England Patriots.
Follow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.
Chuck Zodda knows the importance of staying in your lane, how to fake a punt return, the humanity of punters, proper placekicking technique and the Jets.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.