Amid Lions' poor start, punter Jack Fox 'kicking the crap out of the ball'
It was late in the first half against the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions had executed the worst two-minute drive imaginable. Taking over at their own 7-yard line, the team proceeded to go backward after quarterback Matthew Stafford took a sack near the goal line.
That put punter Jack Fox, in his second professional game, in a stressful spot. Backed up against the end line, he needed to boot it far and high in tight quarters if the Lions were going to protect their three-point lead into the half.
The boot ended up being a thing of beauty, traveling 57 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, but with enough hang time that Packers return man Tyler Ervin had little choice but to signal fair catch.
And while Detroit's defense didn't hold up its end of the bargain — allowing the Packers to score in under a minute — it doesn't take away from the fact that Fox executed his assignment to perfection in a moment where he could have easily panicked.
Fox's ability to handle pressure is part of the reason he got the job, edging out undrafted rookie Arryn Siposs in a hotly contested camp battle. Digging deep for deciding factors, special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs put Fox's moxie to the test in the team's final scrimmage, placing veteran linebacker Jamie Collins a few feel behind the young punter, trying to disrupt his focus.
"He was calm and he was in there banging them up toward the roof," Coombs said.
There is no roof on Lambeau Field, obviously, but if there was Fox would have been banging them off of it, too. Through two games, he's been the NFL's best punter. Along with Detroit's excellent coverage units, Fox has a net average of 51.3 yards.
"Jack, obviously, he's kicking the crap out of the ball," Coombs said. "He’s doing a great job in that phase."
For context, the NFL record for net punting average is 44.6 yards, set by Johnny Hekker in 2016. Sam Martin, the guy Fox replaced, holds Detroit's franchise mark at 44.2 yards. That was also set in 2016, but he hadn't been above 41.8 yards the past three seasons.
Realistically, Fox's current statistical output isn't sustainable. He currently doesn't have any touchbacks, but when those come, they'll hurt that average. But in season where so many things have gone wrong out the gate, there's little doubt the team has found something positive in their punter.