- 58 yards (ATL 22); 11 yard return (ATL 33) *ATL Penalty* (ATL 22)
- 55 yards; Touchback
- 50 yards (ATL 15); 18 yard return (ATL 33)
This is not the Jacob Schum I know.
After a couple of decent weeks which consisted of a single punt each, Green Bay’s punter was forced to step up to the plate for multiple punts. If you’re like me, that thought is unsettling considering his propensity for short kicks and shanks so far this year. Surprisingly however, he showed off what his critics (me included) didn’t think he even had: a powerful leg.
Coming into this game averaging the 2nd worst in gross kicking yardage in the league and having just a single kick which hit the 50 yard mark on the season, Schum managed to make all three of his attempts hit that mark.
This did bring up a different problem for him, of course. By putting his focus on forcing the ball deep, the ability he was likely picked up for in the first place — kick placement — took a hit, as did his hangtime. The second kick ended up going into the endzone after traveling 55 yards, resulting in a lackluster 35 yard net for the punt. The other two went far, but the aforementioned lack of hangtime which came with them allowed for returns of double-digit yardage (though one did go back to the original spot due to an Atlanta penalty).
It is good to see that Schum has the leg strength to make long kicks and potentially flip the field if necessary due to being pinned deep in Green Bay territory, but it does bring up the question of if that distance trade-off is really worth it.
Schum may have the strength to put distance behind the ball, but he is still limited enough in power to where he cannot give a high-level combination of distance, hangtime, and placement. The elite legs in the league — Johnny Hekker, Marquette King, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Morstead, etc — are able to boot the ball far while also preventing good return attempts with their placement and hangtime. When you don’t have a guy who can combine multiple facets like Schum, you basically have to pick your poison; would you rather have a far-but-returnable kick, or one that isn’t as likely to be returned but pretty much gift-wrapped yardage in lieu of distance?
We’ve seen both from Schum now this year, and neither really is appealing. The former is more high-variance, and relies on your coverage team making swift tackles on first contact; the latter takes away the high ceiling provided by the possibility of missed tackles, but slides in a pretty decent floor underneath the returner so he doesn’t have to even worry about taking a risk to give his offense nice starting position.
Such is life when you get stuck picking from the bargain bin for your punting options, I guess.
Hopefully in future games, Schum is able to settle into a somewhat happy medium between these two areas; if not, these issues will likely find a way to smite Green Bay somewhere down the line.