Found December 13, 2012 on Fox Sports Midwest:
ST. LOUIS (AP) Johnny Hekker is beginning to make his mark as one of five rookie punters in the NFL. The Rams' punt team's statistics don't give much reason for pause, ranking in the bottom third in net average, percentage of punts inside the opponents' 20 yard line, fair catches forced and several other categories. But what coach Jeff Fisher likes is Hekker's ability to help the Rams overcome their anemic offense by repeatedly "flipping the field" to help the defense. "I wouldn't say I'm good at too much, but I try to be all right at a couple of things," Hekker said Wednesday as the Rams prepared to host Minnesota on Sunday. The best returners aren't getting far if they do catch the ball. The Rams are tied for sixth in the number of returns attempted against them and tied for 12th with an average of 10.2 yards allowed per return. In its 15-12 victory Sunday at Buffalo, the best punt return team in the league, Hekker punted eight times. Returner Leodis McKelvin averaged 10.2 yards in four returns, 8.5 yards below his average. "Well, considering the quality of returners that we've faced, it seems that week after week after week, I'd say they've done an outstanding job," Fisher said. "I mean, week after week we're putting a lot of pressure on Johnny to put the ball on the boundary to angle kick, which is difficult. And it seems like with consistency the guys are getting down and making the plays." Learning to kick directionally - away from the returner and toward the sideline - has been the key to his success. Hekker averaged just over 41 yards per punt while at Oregon State, including 44 per attempt his senior year. Instead of booming the ball as far as he can, Hekker has worked diligently since joining the Rams at attempting to pin the returner against the sideline or kick the ball out of bounds but still get good distance on the kick. Long snapper Jake McQuaide appreciates the approach. "He's doing a great job punting the ball, matching his hang time with his distance, which is a huge deal for the other guys that have to cover it," McQuaide said. "He's not just hitting line drive punts that the guy catches it he has 20, 30 yards of space and he can make us all miss. And he's doing a great job at direction. He's doing a great job of doing his job, being a pro and he's done it from Day 1 of being here." Hekker has seen plenty of action. The offense has a 33.3 percent success rate in converting third downs, ranking 28th in the league. Though Fisher feels comfortable with Greg Zuerlein attempting field goals from as far as 55 yards under any circumstance, the Rams have called on their punter 70 times. One of those times was a run that lost 9 yards. Three were passing attempts - all completions - including one for a touchdown in a 19-13 victory against Seattle. The other 66 times, Hekker has worked on his real job of punting. "I just got to be consistent, punt balls with good hang time, direction and distance, try and squeeze the returner up against the sideline so he doesn't have very much room," he said. "Just doing my best to make sure, when there's a tackle to be made, that our guys are going to be in good positions because the ball's in the right spot."
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Rams Injury Report: Danny Amendola, Stephen Jackson, James Laurinaitis

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Stephen Jackson were limited participants at practice Thursday, while linebacker James Laurinaitis wasn’t able to suit up for the second day in a row. Amendola continues to recover from a foot injury that has sidelined him for the past few weeks. He was able to practice at a limited capacity Wednesday and Thursday...

St. Louis Rams: Week 15 NFL Power Rankings (#18)

Last week: 21 (+3) Record: 6-6-1 Net points per drive: -0.40 (25th) DVOA: -5.3% (19th) Weighted DVOA: -6.3% (19th) Since the bye, the Rams have tied and beaten the 49ers, gotten road wins in Buffalo and Arizona, and only lost to the Jets, who were in a great spot. Improved health is to thank. They won’t win in Seattle, but they should win at least one of two against Minnesota in...

Rams' streak comes despite offensive woes

ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Rams find themselves with an opportunity to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003 and an outside shot of making the playoffs. If they accomplish either, Sam Bradford and the offense won't be the main reason for the success. The Rams offense is 29th in scoring and the third-year quarterback is ranked 22nd. There's plenty...

Steven Jackson Intends To Re-Sign With The Rams

Earlier in the season, the St Louis Rams made the decision to allow RB Steven Jackson to become a free agent rather than pick up his option, but he apparently “expects to be back” with the team next season. “It’ll be something that I look forward to dealing with and handling at the end of the year,” said Jackson, via the St Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’m very optimistic...

Rams in contention despite baffling numbers

The St. Louis Rams are back in the playoff hunt despite a bevy of numbers that say they shouldn’t be. They may not make the playoffs, but they have certainly had an impact on them to this point with wins over contending teams.

Danny Amendola Upgraded To Probable

Rams receiver Danny Amendola (heel) returned to the practice field on Friday and has been upgraded to probable.Fantasy Spin:Amendola said he "will play" when asked after practice, but the more important question is whether he will make it through 60 minutes. High-risk, high-reward.

Anatomy of a Play: Brandon Gibson goes up for a game-winner

Situation: 2nd and 10 from the Bills 13, 0:47 left in the 4th Quarter, trailing by 5 Personnel: 10 Play: Trips Right, Gun Left, 148 W Corner / Sneak Defense: Cover-1 Man Free This week we look at Brandon Gibson’s game-winning touchdown late in the 4th Quarter this past week...

Ponder, Bradford have struggles in common

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Thanks in part to the Minnesota Vikings, the St. Louis Rams were faced with a franchise-altering moment in March when the Washington Redskins came calling. On the table was a lucrative trade offer from Washington, which would net St. Louis six draft picks in exchange for the No. 2 overall selection and the rights to select Heisman-winning Baylor quarterback Robert...

Vikings-Rams Preview

Sunday's meeting between the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams could serve as all but an elimination game in the NFC playoff race. While St. Louis might need a win at home to remain in the hunt, Minnesota could move into a tie for a wild-card spot or potentially make its road to the postseason significantly tougher. The Vikings (7-6) ended a two-game skid and breathed life...
Rams News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.