ASHBURN, Va. -- One has never punted in an NFL game while the other has done so, but lasted just two games with his former team last season. And then sat out the rest of the year.
Despite the less-than-stellar credentials, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he’s confident one will emerge. Washington cut Sav Rocca after last season, one that featured too many errant punts (among the many problems in a 3-13 season).
“It will be an interesting competition but I do feel strongly that we will find our punter in one of those two guys,” Gruden said.
Robert Malone has punted 157 times in the NFL -- having done so for then-Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris in 2010 and for current special-teams coach Ben Kotwica a year ago with the New York Jets. But Malone lasted two games and 16 punts last season, done in by inconsistency. While his hang time can be terrific, he's also prone to line-drive kicks. That helps explain why he he was cut despite a 46.3 yard average in 2013. He had just a 37.1 yard net.
Both numbers fall in line with what he’s done for his career. Malone has averaged 44.8 yards per punt, but only has a 37.8 yard career net average. His hang time in camp has been terrific -- he's hit the top of the practice bubble a couple of times.
Meanwhile, Blake Clingan last punted in a meaningful game in 2010 at Central Florida. Detroit cut him last summer after he averaged 41.5 yards on 13 punts in the preseason. The 25-year-old has zero career NFL punts.
"Malone is banging them," Gruden said. "He's got a powerful leg and Blake has done a nice job."
However, coaches long ago knew not to measure a punter simply by what he does in practice. The same is true of kickers. It also takes time for them to mature and to handle game situations.
"Preseason will tell," Gruden said. "You've got game-type situations, nerves get a little bit ... it's easy to putt on the practice green, you know what I mean? Sometimes when you get on a real golf course, the three-footers get a little bit tougher."