Most football players have a preference between competing in an outdoor stadium or a dome.
All nine of the Jets’ games this season have been held outdoor stadiums. Their final six will be also. The Green & White will play their lone indoor game in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Sunday.
For Jets punter Robert Malone, the excitement of the venue is clearly evident.
“Most kickers and punters would prefer to kick inside a dome,” Malone said Friday afternoon after practice, “because, I mean, you don’t have to worry about weather conditions. Being out here in New York, where it’s cold and windy, it’s not the most ideal place to punt. So it’s nice to be able to get in a dome where you don’t have to worry about that too much and you can kind of just focus on what you have to do.”
One Jet who isn’t as big of a supporter toward a dome’s environment is Malone’s personal protector, Tim Tebow.
“I prefer grass,” No. 15 said. “I prefer playing in elements on grass. I feel like that’s how football should be played. But really, it doesn’t bother me too much at all.”
Malone said he’s played two games in domes during his time in the NFL. When he was a member of the Buccaneers, he faced the Saints in the Superdome and also played in the Georgia Dome vs. the Falcons.
“Some people can get pretty excited to be in there and try to swing for the fences and that’s when mistakes can happen,” the punter said. “So you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to be smooth. You’ve got to stay with your rhythm, because there’s definitely been some mis-hits in domes, too.”
The 24-year-old enters Sunday’s contest against the 3-5-1 Rams looking to build off an impressive outing last week at Seattle. In that game, he had seven punts for a 45.9-yard gross average and a 40.1 net. Three of his punts resulted in fair catches by Leon Washington and four were inside-the-20 punts. The only other game this season he’s had four inside-the-20s was Sept. 23 at Miami.
“I wouldn’t say it was my best game,” Malone said. “I was happy with the performance. There were a few things I could have done better. I would probably say the Colts game was my best game as a Jet. But I felt solid. There’s definitely a few things I can improve on. But I can’t complain with the net and the four inside-the-20s.”
Malone’s net production hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Head coach Rex Ryan praised the effort and production during his news conference Wednesday.
“We have a young man, I think this might be the best net punting we’ve ever had here,” Ryan said. “I think that’s been a success.”
Malone attributes a lot of his positive net punting — his 39.3 net for the season isn’t far from Curley Johnson’s franchise mark of 39.7 in 1965 — to special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.
“He’s just a big believer in doing your job, focusing on your job and doing what you can for the team,” Malone said. “He puts a lot of pressure on you, which is good because when it comes to the game, there is a lot of pressure. So in practice, that’s kind of how he does it. He tries to make you prepared.”
After a positive start, the Jets’ special teams have struggled over the last two games. Punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a punt against Seattle and one of Malone’s punts against Miami in Week 8 was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Westhoff has shown his disappointment and it hasn’t been fun for Malone either.
“Obviously like any coach would be,” Malone said, “you know if things aren’t going well he’s going to show his frustrations. The players are just as frustrated. So we’ve got to do our best to not get that feeling anymore.”
The Orange, Calif., native said his knowledge of the game and anticipation in punting situations are the two things he’s improved most since he was signed Sept. 4. And with only seven weeks of the regular season remaining, No. 3 is striving for one thing: consistency.
“It’s a long season,” Malone said, “and you’ve just got to try and keep your legs fresh. It’s harder to stay fresh out here just because it’s so much colder than most places. You’ve got to keep swinging your leg. You’ve got to warm up a lot more. Just staying fresh, staying consistent throughout the season and finish strong.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Curley Johnson, Edward Jones Dome, Mike Westhoff, Robert Malone, St. Louis Rams
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