Training camps battles between punters are few and far between, and when they do occur, it is usually not an intriguing aspect for the media to follow. However, the battle to become the New England Patriots’ punter for the 2013 NFL season between Zoltan Mesko and Ryan Allen has been worth keeping it eye on.
Mesko has been booting punts for the Patriots the past three seasons. His accuracy as a punter cannot be denied. Mesko ranked third in the league in 2012 in punt percentage inside the 20, landing 47 percent of his punts inside the red zone.
However, Mesko does not have extraordinary leg strength, contrary to the undrafted rookie Allen, who excels at long-distance punts. Allen finished among the top-five punters in yards per punt over the past two seasons at Louisiana Tech, earning him consecutive Ray Guy Awards, awarded to the best punter in the NCAA.
The competition between Mesko and Allen heated up during the Patriots’ preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mesko punted three times in the game, averaging 44.7 yards. Allen outdid Mesko as the rookie connected on two punts for an average of 54 yards.
Only one punter will make the 53-man-roster. This should concern Mesko not only because Allen outperformed him in the preseason opener, but also because Allen’s two punts against the Eagles marked the first time anyone other than Mesko has punted in a game for the Patriots since he was drafted in 2010.
The Patriots have a tough decision to make, but choosing Allen may be in the best interest of the team as franchise punters specialize in long-distance punts.