Andy Lee got more work holding field goals for Graham Gano then he did soaring punts up into the air during the Carolina Panthers preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but in those few moments he showed why he was worth trading for. He recorded two fair catches at the 10 and 7, providing incredible hangtime and letting the entire coverage unit swarm around the ball. A third punt by him turned into a Steelers turnover, giving the Panthers an extremely short field. Even the Panthers broadcasters couldn’t hide their enthusiasm:
"Lee hangs one up in the air, and it's STILL up there, and finally fair caught inside the 10."
Sure, it was just one preseason game. But when you’re talking about a veteran like Lee, you can bet the farm that punts like these are going to be the norm, not outliers.
What separates him from a guy like Redfern or Colquitt is his directional punting and plus hangtime. While there is no doubt that Redfern and Colquitt can boom them long distance, what they lack (or theoretically lack, in Redfern’s case) is that ability to drop a lawn dart consistently inside the 10 and have it hang long enough for the coverage unit to run underneath it and either down it or create a turnover opportunity. A perfect example of this last night was the Punt that his a Steeler’s leg creating a live ball situation.
While the biggest props definitely go to David Mayo for driving his man backwards into the returner, Lee created that potential by clacking a moonball out there and allowing Mayo the time to pop and engage his man. Before you know it a ball hits someones calf, and the Panthers get the ball in the red zone. This creates points, and those points can be directly attributed to special teams, which can often be attributed to being the X factor that changes games.
So every time Andy Lee drops a bunker-buster inside the 5 this season, fondly remember that 4th round pick, and think about all the potential we missed out on. I’m sure Joe Adams will thank you for the memories.