Cheers: Malone Takes Over Punting Job

The Jets welcomed punter Robert Malone to the organization this afternoon.

Malone arrived in Florham Park after being released last week by the San Diego Chargers. He replaces T.J. Conley, their punter from 2011 whom they released Tuesday.

"I couldn't be happier," Malone said following his first practice with the Green & White. "I'm excited to work with the specialist, Coach [Mike] Westhoff. It's going to be good. I'm excited about it."

With the regular-season opener just four days away, many, including Conley, believed the Jets' job at punter was set. But head coach Rex Ryan was looking to see more consistency from Conley. While he had a solid overall camp, a couple of shanks during the 26-3 loss to the Giants on Aug. 18 didn't help his cause.

"I built a pretty good relationship with T.J. over the last year and a half," kicker Nick Folk said. "I've known him for 2½ years now. Yes, it is sad. It's just the nature of the business, you could say. It's just kind of the way everything happened. It just happened. I had no control. I feel for him. I hope Robert can come in and help this team win. That's all I can wish for."

Malone saw plenty of action this preseason in San Diego. He had 20 punts for a 44.8 gross average and 39.9 net average. He was punting behind one of the NFL's top punters in Mike Scifres, who has been a Pro Bowl alternate three times. Malone said he cherished his time learning from one of the best in the business.  

"It was good working with him," Malone said. "It definitely challenged me to kind of get up to his level. There's no one that hits a higher ball than him, so I actually probably improved my hang time a good three-tenths to a half-second just being around him with the pure competition. It's fun to hit big balls with him, so it was good, very good."

The 6'2", 215-pounder now joins his fifth team since 2010. He came into the league as an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State starting in Jacksonville, then spending one year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (where he played 12 games and averaged 41.5 yards on 52 punts), four days with the Detroit Lions, and the past three months with the Chargers.

While the constant stints between teams and uncertainty can easily frustrate many in his position, Malone said it hasn't fazed him.   

"It's a process," he said. "It's expected as a young punter in the league. It's going to happen. You just have to find a team to stick around and perform well."

The Jets practiced indoors this afternoon and Malone said three or four of his punts hit the ceiling after Ryan said he hit the ceiling five times during his workout. Malone's workout also featured him performing as a holder.

The 24-year-old admitted he didn't know much about the Jets before receiving their call, but did state he was thankful for the opportunity and that he had heard positive things regarding Westhoff and Folk. It's uncertain how long his stay will be in the Northeast, but one thing he doesn't appear to lack is seriousness toward the task ahead. 

"I'm here to do my job, get my job done, net as much as we can," he said. "It's not about my personal average, but how much we can change the field position and hopefully pin 'em back deep and give our defense a long field."

Sounds like the perfect plan from a punter embracing a new environment.

Here's a chart showing Malone's career preseason and regular-season punting compared to Conley's 2011 regular season and '12 preseason with the Jets: 

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