Punting Duel May Come Down to Holding Ability

Kluwe's ability as a holder for Janikowski may prove to be deciding factor in close competition

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The duel between punters Marquette King and Chris Kluwe remains close. No matter which direction the Raiders decide to go, there will be pluses and minuses.

Against the Bears in Oakland’s third exhibition game Friday night, King had two punts, with a long of 55 and averaged 40 yards. Kluwe had just one punt for 50 yards. Going into the game, each had punted four times, with King averaging 55.5 yards and Kluwe 46.0.

But as the Raiders edge closer to Thursday night’s final preseason game, against the Seahawks in Seattle, and a roster decision, it’s possible that the competition between punters comes down to something besides punting.

Both King and Kluwe hold for place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski, one of the NFL’s best kickers. And so far, the veteran Kluwe has an edge over the second-year King in that capacity.

Friday night, when Janikowski missed a 49-yard attempt – well within his range – the holder was King. A few reports noted Janikowski was upset after missing the kick. Later, when Janikowski made a 58-yard field goal, his holder was Kluwe, who held for several seasons in Minnesota.

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group that  Kluwe has an edge over King as a holder and “that will have something to do with the decision we make.”

There’s no doubt King’s leg is stronger than Kluwe’s. King has been punting for better distance and hang time but doesn’t get his punts off quickly; Kluwe gets his punts off faster – he’s only had one punt blocked in eight NFL seasons – but doesn’t get the hang time or length of King.

So Thursday night, when Janikowski lines up for a field goal attempt, Raiders fans should watch who’s holding for him, and how he does. That might count for more than a 65-yard punt.

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