Bolts prepare to take down the Oakland Raiders in advance of Sunday's classic divisional matchup.
It was exactly one year ago that Drew Kaser was fresh off his worst performance as a professional in a Week 5 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Now, he enters a Week 6 contest against that same team coming off one of his best performances in the NFL. That irony isn't lost on the second-year punter, who admitted he struggled early on as a rookie having to come face-to-face with new hype and expectations.
"This year is way different than last year," he said. "Everything has slowed down for me. As a rookie, you try to come in here and climb to the top of the hill and see past it. Early on, it felt like I couldn't get up the hill. I couldn't break past it until finally about Week 7. I'm not a stressed out person, but I was (struggling) with the fact of getting my mind right. It was the speed of the game and what's needed out of you; the expectations. My job doesn't change from high school to college to pro football. Punting the ball is punting the ball. But the expectations were more than I was used to, and so was the speed. So it took time to adjust."
While nerves slowed Kaser at the start of his rookie year, it's been the opposite to begin 2017.
The second-year punter out of Texas A&M ranks fifth in the NFL, averaging 48.9 yards per punt. He's not only shown the power, but also precision, as his 10 punts inside the 20 are the sixth-most in the league.
"This year, I feel like I've started on top (and) I didn't have to climb (any hurdles). It's been smooth sailing. I've been very relaxed. I have confidence every time I go out there. I know the ball is going to turn over a certain way. If I need to put it to the left or the right, I know I'm going to go out there and give it a good punt."
That was never more apparent than last Sunday in what is usually a tough environment for a punter – the swirling winds in the Meadowlands. Faced with adversity in the first half as the Chargers offense repeatedly stalled in their own territory, Kaser was able to consistently flip field position. His booming punts gave the defense enough room to make timely stops, keeping the Bolts in the game until the offense found its rhythm in the second half.
Overall, Kaser averaged 55.5 yards on six punts, including a long of 68 yards. That doesn't even include a 73-yard bomb off his foot following a safety early in the first quarter.
Kaser didn't have many opportunities to pin the Giants deep, but took advantage of his one chance by landing that punt inside the 20. Still, his ability to bail the Bolts out of backed up situations was pivotal in pulling out the victory.
"I was joking around with (Giants punter) Brad Wing after the game that he never really gave me a shot to pin them back inside the 20! But I was able to flip the field when I had to. We were backed up, so I had to have the mentality that I was going to flip the field every single time I was out there. I tried to give our defense as much room as possible, and they did a great job of stopping them. They did a great job all game."
Still, despite his success, Kaser refuses to look back.
"The past is the past," he said. "You can't live in the past. I always say you're only as good as your next punt. I feel like people always try to relive the past and bring it up whether it's good or bad. I just laugh it off. I choose to live with the now."