While the season is still somewhat fresh in our minds, during the rest of January, I will be sprinkling in some posts that are subtitled, "Statistically Speaking," highlighting interesting statistical notes and comparisons regarding individual Browns players, or the team as a whole.
Today, I'm starting with the tremendous season that punter Reggie Hodges had. Despite Hodges' breakout season and drastic turnaround from a year ago, it didn't seem like he was even considered for the Pro Bowl. Let's take a look at how Hodges' performance improved from a year ago, and how he compared to the rest of the punters in the NFL.
The best thing about Hodges' performance for me during the 2010 campaign was the fact that he did not shank any punts -- there were no "Derrick Frost" moments. Hodges' punt average in 2009 over 8 games was 39.8 yards per punt. If he would have done that in 2010, that mark would have ranked worst in the league. Instead, Hodges improved his average to 43.9 yards per punt, an improvement by 4.1 yards per punt. That average was good for 14th in the NFL, and 7th in the AFC. Here are some other statistics for Hodges this year:
Punts Inside the 20 yard line: 29 out of 78 (37% of the time), good for 8th in the NFL and 5th in the AFC.
Punts Inside the 10 yard line: 15 out of 78 (19% of the time), good for 3rd in the NFL and 3rd in the AFC.
Number of Touchbacks: 5 for the season, and he didn't have a single touchback after Week 5.
The key statistic here is the number of punts inside the 10. Consider that many of Hodges' punts came when he was a little more backed up, meaning he had less opportunities to punt the ball from near mid-field. When he did have the chance to pin a team back, he executed -- hence the lack of touchbacks after Week 5.
Hodges' contributions go beyond punting. He ran a beautiful 68-yard run on a fake punt against the New Orleans Saints, and he also grabbed two high snaps from Ryan Pontbriand on field goal attempts for Phil Dawson during the regular season.
The Raiders' Shane Lechler was voted to the Pro Bowl from the AFC. Lechler had a higher punt average than Hodges (47 yards per punt). However, despite Lechler having 27 punts inside the 20, only 8 of those punts fell inside the 10. Again, other variables come into factor (i.e. maybe the Raiders always punted from a little further back, or maybe the coverage units had a harder time chasing down returners since the kicks were longer), but the Pro Bowl nomination can be attributed to Lechler having more experience as a starting punter.
In the end, it's difficult to argue that Hodges should have gotten the Pro Bowl nomination over Lechler. Not only are Lechler's statistics at least somewhat comparable to Hodges, but two other punters from the AFC -- the Jets' Steve Weatherford and the Ravens' Sam Koch -- both had slightly better numbers than Hodges.
It was a great season for Hodges, a 6th round pick by the St. Louis Rams back in 2005, but he doesn't need the Pro Bowl nomination -- all that counts is that he became a reliable punter this year who can help us pin opponents back in the future. Maybe next year our defense will actually capitalize on Hodges' "greatness" so he won't need a 68-yard run to be recognized by others around the league.