Thursday, December 12, 2013
December 10, 2013
By Josh Weinfuss | ESPN.com
TEMPE, Ariz. – Dave Zastudil may not have the best leg or the longest kicks in the NFL, but when it comes to helping his team flip the field, there are few punters as good.
In the Arizona Cardinals' game Sunday against St. Louis, Zastudil landed three of his four punts inside the 20-yard line, including one that was downed at the 1. The fourth punt was initially thought to be downed at the 1 as well, but it was ruled a touchback.
Thanks to Zastudil, Arizona’s opponents have started a league-high 33 drives inside the 20 after punts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And that’s not good news for opponents. The Cards have the best defense in the league against drives that started inside the 20 off punts, allowing .55 points on those drives, fourth-best in the NFL.
On average, Zastudil's punts inside the 20 have pinned opponents at their own 10-yard line and Arizona has not allowed a first down or touchdown on 51.5 percent of those drives. Thanks to Zastudil, Arizona’s defense is working with a large field and has been able to quash offenses quickly, with opponents having to punt 60.6 percent of the time.
The defense should be showering Zastudil with gifts the way quarterbacks do with their offensive linemen.
But this isn’t an anomaly.
Last season, Zastudil set the NFL record for punts inside the 20 with 46. After Sunday, he’s tied for the league lead in that category with 31, alongside Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt. Yet, in the NFL’s annual popularity contest, Zastudil’s achievements seem to be forgotten.
In the most recent update on fan voting for the Pro Bowl, Zastudil wasn’t in the top 10 despite being among the 10 best in net punting average. However, he’s not completely being ignored: ESPN Stats & Info named him an honorable-mention punter this week for his performance against the Rams.