Reason III: Blackburn hand picked P Ethan Evans
The LA Rams drafted punter Ethan Evans in Round 7 of the 2023 NFL Draft with the 223rd overall pick. While that is about where you would expect the LA Rams, or any NFL team for that matter, to draft a punter, the performance of former Wingate punter Ethan Evans has certainly been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal performance of special teams in 2023.
What I love about the fact that the Rams drafted punter Ethan Evans in Round 7 in the 2023 is the innovative way that this team has used his powerful leg. Not only does Evans punt for the LA Rams, but he also handles kickoffs as well. In terms of sheer punting ability, Rams rookie punter Ethan Evans ended the 2023 NFL season as the 10th best punter in the NFL, averaging 49.2 yards per punt.
Where the Rams struggled with Evans was hang time, as he often punted the ball so quickly to the opponent's returner that the Rams would lose premium field position. Evans's net punting of 39.1 yards per punt was no better than the 34th-ranked punter in the NFL, and the difference of 10.1 yards from the gross to net punt is a huge challenge to be corrected in 2024.
In fact, Evans punts were returned 32 times in 2023, for a total of 495 yards, two touchdowns, and one blocked punt.
But what caused that lack of blocking and punt coverage? And, can it be corrected with ample coaching?
I think it can and will be fixed in 2024. As we all know, Evans arrived fairly raw to the NFL in 2023, as all rookie punters do. While he focused on leg strength in his first NFL season, he will undoubtedly focus on hang time in 2024. So, what is an acceptable hang time? LA Rams rookie punter Ethan Evans was clocked at a 4.43-second hang time. For a 45-yard punt, the hang time ought to be 4.7 seconds. But the best NFL punters strive for a hang time that exceeds 5.0 seconds.
Ethan Evans will be a good one. But like many rookies, he needs time to get there.