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Scouting Jets punter Thomas Morstead

NFL: New York Jets at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, the Jets brought in Thomas Morstead to punt for the team. While this is a temporary move with Braden Mann on the injured list, it’s interesting to break him down with a view to comparing his performance with that of Mann.

The 35-year old is listed at 6’4” and 235 pounds and spent his first 12 seasons with the Saints after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft out of SMU. He is a one-time pro bowler.

Background

Morstead attended college at SMU, where he redshirted his first season and then didn’t see action in the following season, but became the team’s punter and kicker in 2006.

In his first season, he was 15th in the nation with a 43.8 yards per punt average and then improved his directional punting over the next two seasons during which he placed in the top five for net punting average and was a two-time all-Conference USA first-teamer.

The Saints drafted Morstead in 2009 and he won their punter job out of camp, immediately etching his name in Saints history with a vital surprise onside kick during the team’s first ever Super Bowl win.

He improved his punting numbers over the next few seasons and was named to his first (and only) pro bowl in 2012 as he averaged a career-high 50.1 yards per punt. He was also named as a second-team all-pro.

Morstead remained a reliable punter for the Saints during the next several seasons and was the NFL’s special teams player of the week in last year’s season opener. However, his numbers for the season as a whole were down and he ended up with the lowest gross average of his career.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Morstead brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

Morstead is quite big and showed some athletic ability at his combine workout when he ran a 4.88 and posted 19 bench press reps. He’s obviously 12 years older than he was back then, though.

Leg Strength

Morstead has displayed a strong leg over the course of his career, especially when he averaged over 50 yards per punt back in 2012. He’s probably lost a few miles off his fastball since then, though.

Here’s a 64-yard punt over the return man’s head from a few years ago that ended up bouncing out of bounds at the two-yard line.

He can get some good hang time on the ball, enabling his coverage units to get downfield and make plays.

Morstead doesn’t outkick his coverage often but in 2017 he had a 58-yarder that Jamal Agnew ran back for a touchdown.

Directional Punting

Morstead’s directional punting has always been solid. In fact, he has never had more than five touchbacks in a season. 15 punters had at least five in 2020.

He’s also been good at landing the ball inside the 20, as he was sixth in the league in that category in 2019.

He’s already shown signs of this with the Jets as he has no touchbacks and has already put three punts inside the 10.

Kicking

While the Jets have already had to use a kicker in a dual role as a punter when Matt Ammendola filled in for Mann in the opener, they would hope to avoid the opposite situation. However, if they do find themselves in a bind, Morstead is an experienced kicker too.

Morstead handled kickoff duties with the Saints in addition to his punting role until 2015, although he’s only kicked off four times since then. When the NFL moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, he set the all-time record for touchbacks, although this has since been broken. He also set a record with nine in one game.

Ammendola’s kickoffs have been good so far, so there is no real chance that the Jets move this role over to Morstead unless there’s an injury or something.

Morstead also handled placekicking duties while at SMU, making 37 of 53 field goals and 106 of 108 extra points. 11 of those 16 missed field goals were from inside 40 yards so he wasn’t exactly automatic.

Tackling

Morstead racked up 12 tackles on special teams with the Saints and was popular with the fans because of his hustle and effort in this area.

Holding

Morstead has also functioned as a holder on the placekicking unit throughout his career with no apparent issues.

Intangibles/Miscellaneous

Watching Morstead’s film, he seems a little slow to get his kick away. However, he’s only had one blocked in his entire career and that was back in 2011.

He’s probably not much of a threat on fake punts or field goals. The Saints tried one several years ago and it did not end well.

However, he did rush for a 34-yard gain when SMU ran a fake punt in his final season in college.

In his career, Morstead has been penalized eight times for delay of game and once for a face mask penalty. One of these delay of game penalties wiped out an Ammendola 56-yard field goal against Denver, although it seemed like a harsh call.

He added to his popularity in New Orleans by showing his toughness in a playoff game where he made a tackle and suffered torn rib cartilage, but still reentered the game. Other than that, he’s missed just two games in his career due to a quad injury.

Morstead seems to have a fun character and received plenty of academic honors in high school and college.

Conclusions

So far with the Jets, Morstead’s numbers have been better than Mann’s last season, but to an extent he may be taking advantage of the superior job the coverage unit has done this year with Justin Hardee leading the way from the gunner position. Of course, Hardee would also have helped Morstead’s numbers from 2017 to 2020.

It seems unlikely the Jets will move on from Mann, whose injury was originally said to be a 4-to-6 week deal, so he should be back shortly after the bye week. He is already back on the practice field.

It’s interesting to note that Morstead himself made a jump after his rookie season, so hopefully Mann can learn a few things from him to try and achieve the same.

Once the Jets bring back Mann, they could opt to retain Morstead on the practice squad in case he gets hurt again, especially if he’s been able to pass on useful advice to the youngster. If they don’t, Morstead has shown he can still punt effectively and could be a candidate to fill in for any other team that loses their punter to injury or dumps them if they hit a slump.