The New York Jets are on the verge of embracing Aussie rules which recently has taken the league by storm. Teams are beginning to adopt the trend with hopes to revolutionize the way special teams is approached. Two Australians, Tom Hackett and Lac Edwards, were added to the Jets this offseason and will battle for the starting punter job. Despite sharing a common talent that originated from the same foreign country, their styles are completely different from each other. The following compares American football to Aussie rules, describes how the two players contrast from one another, and explains who should win the “Hack versus Lac” showdown.
When it comes to punting, football in the states isn’t all that different from Australia. Both have a strong emphasis on accuracy and precision with a shared goal of pinning the opponent deep in their own territory. The only difference is their means of doing so.
Any avid college football fan has seen at least one punter roll out in quarterback fashion, sprint to a certain sideline, then drop kick the ball downfield. This concept stems from Aussie rules in which they allow players to kick on the run as a form of passing. This results in an end over end ball rotation rather than a traditional spiral, including heavy backspin spin off the ground.
Hackett is one of the few punters attempting to implement this at the highest level of football. For the past two years, he represented for Salt Lake City as the nation’s top punter. The former Utah Ute finished third in yards per punt in 2014, and led the FBS in that category last season. Also, he didn’t just repeat as the Ray Guy award winner, given to the top collegiate punter, but as an All-American as well. Accolades rarely determine success in the NFL, although considering what Hackett’s done, history might disagree.
Since the Ray Guy award started, Hackett is the second ever to win it back-to-back years. The first was Ryan Allen, who now starts for New England. During their Super Bowl 49 victory, he set a record for the longest punt in Super Bowl history. Allen also became one of the most accurate punters in the league. Last season, he recorded just one touchback in 24 tries when attempting to pin the opponent inside the 20. He’s definitely learned to finesse the ball, and that’s what I visualize Hackett’s potential to be. If he can master his distance control like Allen did, it makes him a more appealing option than someone who simply boots it downfield as hard as he can.
On the other end, Edwards is the prototypical punter whose size fits more of the NFL mold. The Jets took him from Sam Houston University late in the seventh round this year, mainly because of his 6’5” frame that earned him a few extra points in the draft. More importantly, Edwards is used to the two step punting technique. His full potential has yet to be unlocked but he has all the measurables to succeed.
Even if he was taken in the draft, that still gives him little advantage over the undrafted Hackett. When it comes down to it one Australian will win the starting job while the other goes unemployed. For New York, the most appealing option is to choose Hackett. He brings a unique aspect to special teams that makes him more intriguing than Edwards. Today’s league is all about field position, so why not go with the nation’s best finesse punter? His combination of distance and accuracy gives a coach complete control of ball placement, which is the key reason why I’m choosing Hack over Lac.