by Tom LaMarre
Rookie AJ Cole has become the Oakland Raiders’ punter after the team placed second-year punter Johnny Townsend on waivers Tuesday.
Townsend, selected by the Raiders in the fifth round (No. 173 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Florida, averaged 43.5 yards per punt last season, which ranked 32nd in the league, and his net average of 38.2 was 30th.
Not only that, Townsend was unable to kick the ball high enough many times to pin Oakland’s opponent downfield, and he had a few kicks that could be called shanks.
In Saturday night’s 14-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Townsend averaged 42.3 yards on three punts, with one of them going only 34 yards.
Cole, signed by the Raiders as an undrafted free agent from North Carolina State, had four punts in the game for 172 yards, a 43.0-yard average, and had two punts downed inside the 20-yard-line.
“We haven’t seen kicks like that since (Shane) Lechler was here, or (Marquette) King,” Coach Jon Gruden said about Cole after the games.
The Raiders have a history of a strong kicking game, including Hall of Famer Ray Guy, considered the greatest punter of all-time.
Cole also can kickoff and serve as the holder on placekicks, as he did against the Rams.