Danny Smith is not a stat guy. He’s 62 and has been coaching football since 1976. So it’s not a surprise that he isn’t hyping logarithms on gameday. But there is one number Smith circles: a 40 yard net average for punters.
“40 yards is a magic number. A few years back, there were very limited numbers of 40 yard net for the season,” Smith told Bob Labriola in this week’s Coordinator’s Corner. “Now it’s becoming more prevalent because punters have gotten stronger and coverage have gotten faster. So 40 is a magic number. If you’re hanging around 40, you’re pretty damn good.”
Though Jordan Berry’s name never explicitly came up, a quick look at his stats show a net average of 38.8 yards for the season, slightly below Smith’s benchmark. Berry has, however, achieved a 40+ yard net in three of the last five games with another one coming in at 39.5. He’s only allowed one return on him over that span, a total of 11 punts.
“Ultimately the net punting is the measure of a quality punter,” Smith told Labriola.
Brad Wing’s finished with an identical 38.8 yard net in 2014. From that number alone, and there are obviously several factors at play, the Steelers haven’t gotten any better or worse. In fact, the last Steeler to have a net of 40+ is Daniel Sepulevda in 2011. He punted 25 times before tearing his ACL, finishing with a 40.6 mark.
Berry is coming off a strong game against the Cincinnati Bengals, pinning them on their two on his first try and not allowing a return on the other. Reps have been scarce, as the aforementioned 11 punts over five games number alludes to, and that’s especially tough on a player in his first year in the league.
While Berry may not be having the perfect season, he’s shown relative consistency and professionalism during his first crack with the Steelers. He isn’t guaranteed to be the punter of the future but is offering more stability than the team has dealt with since Sepulevda.