Daniel Sepulveda Might Be Legitimate Option To Short Jeff Reed Kickoffs

The most significant thing that came out of the Steelers Friday Night Lights practice in Latrobe last night was that punter Daniel Sepulveda was allowed to show what he could do on kickoffs. Sepulveda has been working on kickoffs for years now, and head coach Mike Tomlin finally let him show off what he had in relief of regular kicker Jeff Reed. Sepulveda kicked off four times during the second special teams period, to the liking of Tomlin. “Sepulveda may provide us with a legitimate option there,” Tomlin said. Sepulveda slipped on his first attempt and still sent it eight yards into the end zone with a hang time of 3.7 seconds. His next three kickoffs had hang times of 3.93, 4.07 and 3.87, with each one going at least to the 2.

You can look at the stats below of Reed since 2002 and see that he has been consistently bad over the years on kickoffs. The Steelers poor play on special team kickoff coverages magnified these stats even more. Based on all kickoffs last year, Reed ranked 32nd in the league with a total average of 59.8. The NFL average on all kickoffs in 2009 was 64.6, almost 5 yards more than Reed\’s efforts. His best year kicking off was his first full season with Steelers in 2003 where he finished 12th in the NFL with a 63.0 average on kickoffs, yet only a yard and a half over the league average in that year. 2009 also saw a league low 3 touchbacks by Reed as well.

For comparison purposes, I have provided the stats of Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski over the same time period. As you can see, Reed only has just over a third amount of touchbacks that Janikowski does since 2002 and has averaged almost 3.5 more yards a kickoff than Reed. Judging by the carrier field goal stats of Janikowski in addition, one can see why he received a new contract that made him the highest paid kicker and why Reed is not in his class as a all around kicker.

Back to the Robo-punter though, Sepulveda has suffered knee problems in the past and that may be the reason he was not used as a kickoff specialist in 2009, to give him more time to heal and less wear and tear on the leg as well. He signed his one year tender this offseason and might be trying to show his versatility in hopes of getting re-signed to longer contract after the 2010 season. The Steelers would be smart to get every kick they can out of their 2007 4th round draft pick. Let\’s be honest, he can\’t do any worse than Reed. His distance and hang times could be just what the doctor ordered for the coverage unit to rebound from a dismal 2009 showing. Sepulveda is also a much better tackler and scared to hit as we have seen in the past. All of this would put less wear on the leg of Reed, so he can do what he does best, kick field goals. We can only hope Tomlin is not just using coach speak and indeed considers the Robo punter a legitimate option over Skippy.

Jeff Reed Kickoff Stats (2002-2009)

YearRkKOYdsAvgNFL AvgTBPctRetRet YdsYds/Ret

Sebastian Janikowski Kickoff Stats (2002-2009)

YearRkKOYdsAvgNFL AvgTBPctRetRet YdsYds/Ret
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