Lachlan Edwards has heard that the offseason after one's NFL rookie season is huge, and the Jets' first-year punter is taking that bit of hearsay to heart.
"The emphasis will be leg strength. It'll help me get through the year with the volume of kicks and how long the season is," Edwards told me at the end of the season before heading for points west (Texas and California) to train. "That's one thing I probably didn't have a great base on coming in was just the leg strength that will help me get through the year.
"Other than that, just working on every facet of the game, getting reps, volume of kicks, and, really, fundamentals to get into good habits so that when I come back the next year, it's going to be automatic, I'm not falling into bad habits halfway through the year like I did this year. That's really the main focus."
Edwards, the Australian by way of Sam Houston State, was a seventh-round pick in last year's draft who replaced Ryan Quigley, the Jets' three-year punter. An Associated Press observer late in the year cracked that we could refer to Edwards as "Quigley Down Under," and in fact the similarities between Q's 2015 numbers and Edwards' 2016 are uncanny:
Total Punts: Quigley 75, Edwards 75.
Gross Average: Quigley 43.8, Edwards 43.1.
Net Average: Quigley 36.5, Edwards 37.3
Touchbacks: Quigley 4, Edwards 4.
Inside-the-20 Punts: Quigley 27, Edwards 24.
Fair Catches: Quigley 14, Edwards 22.
Punts Blocked: Quigley 1, Edwards 1.
Unofficial Average Hang Time: Quigley 4.41 seconds, Edwards 4.37.
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Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer reminded before the season finale against the Bills that Edwards has a sizable upside since he's played football stateside for only four seasons.
"I think Lachlan has done some good things," Boyer said. "Has he had some bumps in the road? Sure, he has. Any rookie has in this league, and there's a lot of things that you have to learn in your first couple of years, especially guys as raw as he is.
"Has he gotten better? Hell, yeah, he's gotten better. He didn't know how to hold when he got here, his times were way up there — we've brought all that down. I think he's a little more consistent than he was earlier in the year. I think he's done a pretty nice job. Are there areas of improvement he needs to make in the offseason? Sure there are, just like us all."
Boyer mentioned his own connection with Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee, whom he worked with the previous four seasons on the Colts. McAfee has posted 40-plus net averages four of the last five years, but his nets his first two NFL seasons were 37.8 as a rookie and then 35.4.
One thing Edwards had on Quigley was a slightly better net average and field position, based on him and his cover team not yielding a TD return (the '15 Jets gave up two) and forcing more fair catches. That's a fair foundation for the honest, earnest young man who was brought up on Australian rules football, rugby and cricket.
"I thought I started well, fell off in the middle, and then sort of finished well," he said in assessing '16 and looking ahead to '17. "I've just got to fix, though, that one punt each game that sort of let me down. I think if I do that, I'll be one of the guys that's here for a while."