|Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein has been nothing short of amazing for the Rams this season, making good on 13 of 13 field goals, including four from 50-plus yards. (US Presswire)|
Many wondered if the Rams were smart to go with rookies at kicker and punter. Five games in, Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker are among the biggest reasons St. Louis owns a winning record for the first time since 2006.
Zuerlein has made all 13 of his field goals, including four from 50-plus yards. He’s the sixth kicker in NFL history to make his first four tries from 50-plus yards. No one has made his first five.
A sixth-round draft pick out of tiny Missouri Western State, Zuerlein hit a 60-yarder against Seattle that set a Rams and NFL rookie record.
Zuerlein’s heroics have overshadowed the work of Hekker, but the undrafted rookie punter from Oregon State has been plenty good, too.
Not only did Hekker throw a touchdown pass on a fake field goal against Seattle, he ranks seventh with a 49.5-yard average, 14th in net punting at 41.2 yards, and is tied for 11th with seven punts downed inside the 20.
After Thursday’s 17-3 win over Arizona, coach Jeff Fisher credited Hekker with helping neutralize Patrick Peterson, who returned two punts for touchdowns against the Rams last season.
“John was very efficient,” Fisher said. “Five out of his seven punts were exactly where he needed to put them against a very, very good returner. You don’t realize how difficult it is for a punter to turn and angle and put the ball into the boundary like that in the face of a rush. I thought he did a very, very good job.”
On his seven punts, Hekker averaged a whopping 56.9 yards, with a 46-yard net. In trying to kick away from Peterson, he didn’t lose any distance.
Commenting on his approach to punting, Hekker said: “Just walk a good line, get a good mental image of where I want to kick it, let the ball get a little deeper. I had a couple good ones that were deep and out of bounds. I’m working on getting a good balance between distance and direction and everything.
“Distance, direction and hang time are the three main ingredients. You want to get two out of three. I am working on trying to get good direction on every punt and try to limit those returns because the return guys in the NFL are all very dangerous.”
WR Amendola out at least a month: Leading wideout Danny Amendola, who has 32 catches for 395 yards and two TDs, has a separated SC joint, according to the Post-Dispatch. The sternoclavicular joint is where the collarbone meets the breastbone.
Amendola suffered the injury trying to make a diving catch in the win over Arizona.
Amendola doesn't need surgery, but the injury usually takes four to eight weeks to heal, the paper reported.
Gibson is second on the team with 13 catches for 184 yards and two scores, and tight end Lance Kendricks has 10 grabs. No other wideout has more than five receptions.
Get more Rams updates and analysis from Larry Hartstein @CBSRams.