Two summers ago, I did an analysis of Dirk Johnson's punting stats that tried to go beyond the traditional gross / net rankings people always put out there by using situational stats to account for the fact that not every punter has the same distribution of scrimmage lines from which he kicks. The somewhat surprising result was that Dirk really ... wasn't all that good. It made me think Rocca had more of a chance than I had been giving him up to that point.
Last year, I repeated the analysis with Sav's stats. The result:
Sav was slightly below average in his first season, with overall numbers that were pretty close to what we've seen from Dirk the past few years. In fact, Rocca's gross and net punting figures were almost exactly in line with Dirk's 2006 stats. Given that this was his first year punting, we should expect to see improvement in his second season. And Sav has almost certainly done more that enough to guarantee he'll be back next year.
We're back this year with round three. Here's the table:
I've highlighted in dark green the top figures from the five seasons we're looking at (2005 was an injury year for Dirk). From the top line numbers, it's pretty clear Sav had the best season we've seen from that position in awhile -- but he was still good rather than great, with gross / net ranks that were 19th and 14th, respectively.
He continues to demonstrate great control around the endzone. His 5.2% touchback percentage was third-best among punters who played for one team (fifth best overall). He was slightly below average keeping punts inside the 20 (ranked 20th), but that's in some ways a meaningless stat, since he kicked 16 balls from his own red zone in 2008 vs. only seven in 2007. His "modified" percentage (which strips out punts from inside one's own red zone) was the best we've seen recently.
He made great strides in terms of the return game. Rocca had slightly more punts returned this year, but the average return was much lower, yielding a "return damage" rating much better than we've seen since 2004. This likely relates to better consistency. We saw fewer line drives this year from Sav.
The "long gross" figure is a little worrisome. That's the average length of punts kicked from inside one's own 20 yard line.
Finally, he was very, very good on punts from the opponents' half of the field, placing eight of nine of those opportunities inside the 20.
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An interesting thing about his performance this year is that his numbers would have been a lot better if he'd just missed the plane to Cincinnati.
Sav punted 10 times that day for a gross of 36.2 and a net of 31.1. Take that performance away and he would have been at 44.5 / 40.3 for the year. That's a net that would have put him fourth among full-time punters.
Add Sav to the list of 3,000,000 people who wish that day had never happened.
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As one final note, I took a look last year at the history of Australian punters in the NFL to see if that could teach us anything. It's not the most illuminating analysis ever done around here, but for posterity's sake, here's the updated table: