Panthers depth chart focus: Special teams set to dominate?

(Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports) Chris Tabor
(Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports) Chris Tabor /
3 of 6
Carolina Panthers
(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports) Johnny Hekker /

Johnny Hekker – Carolina Panthers P

One of the surprise moves in the offseason saw the Los Angeles Rams release All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker after 10 seasons with the franchise. During that time he was widely regarded as the league’s best at the position.

Hekker gained four All-Pro honors, with a further two second-team selections. He was also voted into four Pro Bowls alongside being a part of the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2010s – an impressive set of accolades.

While the power of Hekkers leg has decreased somewhat in recent years, the Carolina Panthers still have one of the best in the league. The Oregon State boasts a 46. 7 yards-per-punt average from his 161 games and a 78-yard career-best effort.

Hekker had a slightly down year in terms of his punting average with 44.5 yards in 2021. But his net punting average was an outstanding 42.6 yards, ranked fifth-best.

While on the face of it Lachlan Edwards had solid stats during his time in Carolina, his limited football background was a detriment to him. Being an Australian Rules player in his younger days meant he had no experience place kicking, so when Zane Gonzalez went down through injury, the punter was unable to assist.

Hekker has also been noted for his ability to execute a fake punt, even throwing a touchdown pass in his rookie season on a fake field goal. Another reason to suggest this represents a massive upgrade.