By Chad Jensen
(247SPORTS) – For media members attending Denver Broncos OTAs last few weeks, the most entertaining aspect, ironically, has been watching punter Marquette King boom footballs down the field. King’s exploits might not be the first thing mentioned in the OTA reports, but Denver’s recently acquired punter has already made a strong impression on the media, and even more so on Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon.
“He’s fun to watch,” McMahon said last week. “He’s fun to coach—good football player, good punter. He’s got great leg strength. He’s very quick to the ball. I can’t wait to see what he can do [this] year, and he’s doing a great job with holds. You know it’s tough to flip over if you’ve been holding for a lefty for seven years in your career. Every single day he’s in there doing an extra 30 minutes. When they’re in walk-through and when they’re at their individual period, we’re getting a bunch on the jugs, so he’s doing a great job.”
McMahon is referring to King’s time spent in Oakland as the placeholder for left-footed kicker Sebastian Janikowski. In Denver, King will be holding the ball for Brandon McManus — a righty. The switch involves a slight change in technique.
The Broncos signed King this past spring to a three-year, $7 million deal after he was unceremoniously dumped by Jon Gruden’s Raiders. Riley Dixon — Denver’s incumbent punter — was subsequently traded to the New York Giants for a conditional 2019 seventh round draft pick.
Understandably, King wasn’t a fan of how the Raiders let him go and has since vowed to extract his vengeance on the grid-iron. King took over for Shane Lechler in Oakland in 2013 and since that time, has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 168 times, good for third in the NFL.
Even more impressively, King leads the NFL with 65 punts downed inside the 10-yard line since 2013. The Broncos will capitalize on his knack for directional punting in 2018 and beyond.
“The things that aren’t going to happen quote on quote here, number one, when we punt the football, we’re going to always try and play just a small rectangle,” McMahon said. “We play on a rectangle, so let’s take this 53-yard rectangle and let’s make it five yards that we have to cover. The best football player of all a time, a guy that we’re going to use that you might not have heard the other special teams coaches use, is the 12th man. The best player in the history of the world who gets screwed every single year in the Hall of Fame is the white line. Never missed a tackle, so you start punting the ball outside of the red line. You have in kicking off out there another player all of the time. That red line, to answer your question, we’re going to use the heck out that red line.”
The point is that the days of Denver’s special teams lining up and booting the ball directly down the middle of the field, and watching guys like Travis Benjamin or Tyreek Hill return it up the gut all the way to pay-dirt, are over. Special teams will utilize the white line boundary to contain punt returners. During OTAs, the Broncos utilized a red line as a kind of target on punts, to funnel returners where McMahon wanted them to go.
King’s ability to accurately punt the football will be a weapon for the Broncos. It will serve to minimize punt return yards and limit opponents’ opportunity to generate big plays that flip field position.
The Broncos defense figures to be the most immediate beneficiaries of King’s efforts, defending drives with opponents starting inside their own 20-yard line more often than not. And if the Broncos defense can limit teams in such situations to three-and-outs, Case Keenum and company will certainly appreciate starting their own drives with shorter fields. It all comes down to playing complimentary football, and it could result in a couple extra wins.
GM John Elway chose to spend a little money on the punter position in the wake of a special teams unit costing Denver multiple games in 2017. It’s looking like in the case of Marquette King, the Broncos will indeed get what they paid for.