Matt Darr snuck up on Brandon Fields when he was a rookie, taking the punter job from the established veteran, and it appears the tables could be turning on Darr.
Matt Haack, a left-footed rookie punter from Arizona State the Miami Dolphins signed to compete with Darr, has outperformed the veteran in all three preseason games.
Haack is averaging 43.0 net yards and 45.8 yards on 10 punts. He downed two punts inside the 20-yard line during Thursday’s 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but only one of his punts has been fair caught. Seven of his punts have been returned.
Darr is averaging 34.5 net yards and 44.2 yards on nine preseason punts, but one of those was blocked because of an early snap by rookie Winston Chapman. Darr has downed five of his punts inside the 20, and five of his punts have been returned.
Last year, Darr averaged 39.9 net yards and 44.3 yards on 90 punts, with 32 downed inside the 20, and 37 being returned.
Haack, who finished sixth in the nation with a net punting average of 42 yards for the Sun Devils, has a booming leg, and the rotation he puts on his punts gives returners trouble because they aren’t accustomed to left-footed kicks. His 63-yard punt in the fourth quarter against the Eagles was muffed by tailback Donnel Pumphrey.
Some teams — like the New England Patriots — covet left-footed punters because a larger percentage of their punts get muffed by opponents.
Back in 2015, Miami’s decision to keep Darr over Fields was motivated primarily by economics since Darr was slated to make one-third of Fields’ salary as a rookie.
Darr is scheduled to earn $615,000 this season, but this is the final year of his rookie deal, which means he will become a free agent next offseason. Haack was signed to a three-year deal, and he’s slated to make $465,000 this season, with $100,000 raises in the next two seasons.
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