Chris Kluwe and Marquette King haven’t made it easy on Raiders head coach Denis Allen and his staff.
With just two games remaining in the exhibition season and a little more than two weeks until the NFL regular-season opener, Kluwe and King are both punting very well.
Deciding between the proven veteran Kluwe and the strong-legged but untested King is going to be difficult.
“We’ve got two guys that are NFL-caliber punters,” Allen said this week, before the team broke from its summer training camp site in Napa. “Any time you’re in that situation, that’s a good problem to have.”
Through two exhibitions, King has the better numbers. In four punts (the same number as Kluwe), he has a 55.5-yard average with a net of 49.0. Kluwe – who has 623 career punts in the NFL with a 44.4-yard average and 37.3 net – has almost duplicated those stats this summer, at 46.0 and 37.5. Kluwe also gets the ball off quickly; he’s only had one punt blocked in eight NFL seasons, that coming in 2008.
The Raiders know what they’re getting in Kluwe, a very steady performer. With King, the upside could be higher, but there’s no track record of performance in real games.
King captivated the Raiders last season with his long, high punts in training camp, but he was also wildly inconsistent.
This summer, his consistency has improved.
“I’ve seen (King’s) consistency get better and I think that’s a good battle,” Allen said earlier this summer of the second-year pro from Fort Valley State. “I think that’s a good competition between him and Kluwe.”
Still, Allen wanted to see that arc of improvement continue.
Kluwe has taken the high road in the competition this summer, offering tips and help to King, something he says veteran punters didn’t do with him when he broke into the league from UCLA. He was signed by Seattle, punted well, was cut and then picked up by the Vikings. Kluwe says even if King wins the job in Oakland, as long as he punts well, he’ll find a job somewhere, too.
“You can’t look at it like I’m here in this spot competing for this job,” he told the Associated Press this week. “You have to look at it like I’m competing for one of 32 jobs in the NFL. Because you could beat out the guy at your spot on your team but if neither of you is punting better than a guy on some other team (who is let go), they’re going to cut both of you and bring in that other guy. That’s how I started in this league. Minnesota claimed me off waivers.”
How King and Kluwe perform Friday night against the Bears and next Thursday against the Seahawks in the final exhibition will likely determine the battle – though King’s improvement and upside seem to give him the edge right now.
Said Allen last week of King: “Over the last week or so, I’ve seen a lot of improvement out of him.”