Deja Vu? Did the LA Rams dismiss the wrong punter(s)?

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams appeared to have their Week 2 game well in hand. With 12:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, the LA Rams were ahead by a score of 31-10, and the defense allowed the lone Falcons touchdown after another Matthew Stafford interception.

But then the wheels began to wobble on the cart. And then one almost fell off.

Hey, I don’t want to say that the LA Rams special teams are in trouble again, but the LA Rams special teams are in trouble again. The LA Rams had an opportunity to go with three different punters. Of course, the team signed veteran punter Riley Dixon, an NFL punter whose history was nothing particularly spectacular.

But the Rams appeared to be seeking competition for the position, as the team signed undrafted rookie punter Cameron Dicker. The team even brought in an impressive but unheralded punter from Nevada by the name of Julian Diaz. Not once, but twice. The Rams sent Diaz home without a contract. Then the Rams waived Dicker.

The starting punter job was all Riley Dixon’s now. And that’s when troubles began. Dixon is not an outstanding punter, but he can be effective. The problem is that he is in the bottom half of NFL punters in gross punting. But his punts have less hang time and less accuracy. So teams have a much greater opportunity to return punts against him. After one week Dixon’s gross punting of 45.3 yards was good for 23rd best in the NFL, but his net punting of 40.0 yards was no better than 31st place.

That is pretty horrific for a team that is looking at returning to the NFL playoffs. A small sample? Yes.  But horrific.

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Punting presents problems

In Week 2, the LA Rams would do worse. With a fourth down and eight yards to go from their own 41-yard line with less than five minutes remaining in the game, and leading by 14 points, Dixon’s punt was blocked and allowed the Falcons to score not only a touchdown but to attempt (and complete) a two-point conversion.

It was so bad that the Rams would not attempt another punt, opting for a more manageable safety to give Dixon a free kick, rather than face a rush and perhaps have a second punt blocked for a touchdown.

I’m not trying to say that punting is easy. I’m not saying that the LA Rams’ win or loss fell squarely upon punter Riley Dixon’s shoulders. But let’s be real. Punting, like an offensive snap, is considered a gimme. It’s a fundamental play that NFL head coaches expect, and often demand to get it right each time.

What the LA Rams are getting right now is not right. I don’t know if that is something the LA Rams should investigate, but I would not be the least bit surprised if the team brings in more competition.

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