One of the New England Patriots most heated position battles is actually at punter, where incumbent Zoltan Mesko and undrafted rookie Ryan Allen are busy fighting it out for the job. Mesko doesn’t have contractual terms on his side, because Allen is cheaper and Mesko is also on a one-year deal. However, Mesko does have experience on his side, and the uncertainty of switching to a new punter has to be a weight on the Patriots minds in this decision. Mesko has proven to be a more than dependable punter in this league, but sometimes money does win out. Allen isn’t somebody to be taken lightly, as he was a back-to-back Ray Guy winner at Louisiana Tech, and he does have a strong leg than Mesko.
New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko (14) makes a punt during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The competition through training camp actually looked to be favoring Ryan Allen, because he was slightly outperforming Mesko and holds the advantage of being cheaper and younger. Salary rules a lot of moves in this league, and that looked enough to be enough to put Allen over the top of Mesko’s experience and more certain standing. But we all know that every close competition is fluid, and it is all about how the competitors fare out under the lights.
The punting battle was a highlight for many heading into last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and my takeaway from the game and from the performances of both punters is that the fan favorite is winning the job. Zoltan Mesko averaged 44.3 yards per punt on his three punts while Allen averaged just 39 yards on his two punts, but it goes beyond punting averages as well.
What disappointed me about Allen is the fact that he had a touchback on a punt in opponent’s territory, and he also mishit his second punt of the game. Meanwhile, Mesko was able to blast a 50-yard punt to Tampa’s 11-yard line in the third quarter, and Mesko clearly looked like the better punter last night. Beyond that, Mesko is also the more experience holder, and he held all of Stephen Gostkowski’s kicks yesterday.
It is important to remember, though, that this was just one game in the preseason that showcased just five total punts between the two. There are still two more preseason games, countless other practices, and more time for either Allen or Mesko to grab the starting job. For now, it looks like Mesko is going to win the job and Allen will find himself on the practice squad as an emergency option if Mesko leaves for free agency next year. It is my belief that Allen has the talent to be a good starting punter in this league, and he is worth consideration for the practice squad under the circumstances.