Early in the Seahawks' Week 12 win over the Carolina Panthers, punter Michael Dickson came on to punt for the first time, and proceeded to boom a punt 62 yards. Thanks to good hang time on the kick, and good coverage led by rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin, the Panthers managed only a 5-yard return on that kick, meaning it changed field position by 57 yards.
A 62-yard kick that netted 57 yards? It almost felt routine. It has been that kind of rookie season, and in particular that kind of month for Dickson, who on Thursday was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November.
Dickson, who currently leads NFC punters in Pro-Bowl voting, already has earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors this season for his play in Seattle's final game of October, both for his punting performance against the Lions, and also for the bold decision to go off script and run for a first down out of his own end zone late in the game. And while November didn't feature any repeats of the play dubbed "Aussie Sweep," it did feature some of the best punting of his young career.
In four games in November, Dickson punted 16 times, averaging 53.0 yards-per-punt with a net average of 47.4 yards, both of those numbers leading the NFL for November. Five of those 16 punts were downed inside the 20 and none went into the end zone for touchbacks.
This season, Dickson has a league-best net average of 44.0, a number that would establish a new franchise record if he can maintain it or improve upon it over the final five games. Dickson's gross average of 48.6 yards ranks third in the league, which also would establish a new team record, but as Dickson's November numbers show, the Australia native seems to be getting better as the season progresses. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said some of that improvement could be related to how coaches have learned to manage his practice workload to best suit the fifth-round pick out of Texas.
"Yeah, I do think that we've learned more about him, and I think (special teams coordinator) Brian Schneider and (assistant special teams coach) Larry Izzo and those guys are working to find the right rhythm for workloads, because he's a total worker," Carroll said. "He wants to kick every day and kick a ton every day. I think they're learning more about how to rest him and how to keep him strong. That easily could be part of what's going on, because we were just having to find out early in the year. I'm hoping that we can continue to do a good job of that because he's really been a factor."
Carroll described Dickson's ability to change field position a "huge" factor in Seattle's success this season.
"This is a big part of how we're playing the game," Carroll said. "We're counting on that ball being inside or around the 10 yard line when we take over (on defense) a lot of times. Whether he's got to bomb it to get there or he's got to kick it high to get it there, he's got the ability to keep us down there and he's really been accurate. He's been a great weapon for us."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 12 game against the Carolina Panthers.