This Charger Is Having The Most Statistically Odd (And Good) Season Of Them All. Yes, The Punter

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jk scott

Los Angeles Chargers fans are witnessing something magical, something beautiful, strange and unique all at the same time.

And they may not even realize it.

Chargers punter JK (John Kimball) Scott is in the midst of one of the most unique statistical anomalies in the NFL this season. He’s punted the ball 46 times this season for a pedestrian average of 43.2. Nineteen of those 46 punts have been downed inside the 20.

Neither of those stats puts Scott among the league leaders in punting stats (yes, they have punting stats).

The amazing thing is that Scott leads the NFL in the least amount of yards returned off of his boots. He’s had 15 kicks returned for just 58 yards.

58 yards. That’s it.

The Chargers are 6-5, on the outside of the AFC playoff picture. The run defense is horrific, but you start to look at how the Chargers are still alive and still winning games, and maybe it’s time to give Scott his due. Yes, I know, he’s a punter and all, but every kick by Scott that’s not returned is a field position plus for the Chargers.

To find out more, I’ve detailed every one of Scott’s 46 punts this season. Yes, really.

What are the statistical odds that his punts aren’t being returned. Is it hangtime? (That’s a factor). Is it the location on the field? Is he angling his punts just right? Or has the NFL started to discourage punt returners from even running back punts?

Here’s the kick.

Get To Know The Great Scott

Scott was a fifth-round draft pick by the Chargers in 2018 out of the Nick Saban College Football Factory known as Alabama. He kicked for the Packers for three years.

I looked up his numbers with the Packers to see if this season was an outlier when it came to return yards against him.

The answer? Yes.

In 2018, Scott had 72 punts for the Pack and the team allowed 206 return yards.

In 2019, it was 77 punts and 233 return yards.

In 2020, it was 47 punts and 291 return yards.

His average per punt was never super high, and the Packers cut Scott at the end of 2021 training camp. He spent some time with the Jaguars that year, and the Chargers picked him up in 2022.

Great Scott, By The Numbers

Again, looking at Scott’s numbers against the other punters in the NFL (yes, you can really do a deep dive on punting stats), nothing stands out. He’s tied for 10th in kicks inside the 20. He’s 16th in both net average and number of punts. He’s third-to-last in average.

Somehow, he’s third in the number of punts fair caught.

That doesn’t tell us anything.

58 yards returned through 11 games is astounding, but not a world record.

In 2020, Thomas Morstead of the Dolphins punted 62 times and gave up 46 return yards.

Last year, Johnny Hekker kicked 50 punts and allowed 60 return yards, the fewest in the league for a full-time punter.

Who knows what the all-time Charger record is for fewest punt return yards, but I got to believe that Scott is on the chase.

Scott Every Kick is a Blast

Then I looked back and watched Scott’s 46 punts this year. I am going to tell you he had a direct hand in at least one victory, and maybe a second.

Here’s the game-by-game look at the opponent, where the ball was at the time of the punt and what the result was.

Vs. Las Vegas Raiders (win)

Ball at Chargers 49. Downed at the Raiders 3.

Ball at Chargers 30. Caught at Raiders 18. Returned for five yards.

Ball at Chargers 10. Fair Catch at Raiders 41.

Ball at Chargers 32. Caught at Raiders 21. Returned for zero yards.

This was the game where Scott almost had a punt blocked. The Raiders return man was Hunter Renfro and he missed a great chance to return the third Scott punt of the game for a nice gain.

Vs. Kansas City Chiefs (loss)

Ball at Chiefs 46. Fair Catch at Chiefs 8.

Ball at Chiefs 48. Downed at the Chiefs 13.

Ball at Chargers 33. Fair Catch at Chiefs 29.

Ball at Chargers 2. Fair Catch at Chargers 36.

Ball at Chargers 26. Caught at Chiefs 30. Returned for four yards.

Ball at Chargers 38. Caught at Chiefs 9. Returned for six yards.

Who says the Chargers are daring? They punted twice on the Chiefs side of the field, but both times it was fourth and long.

Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (loss)

Ball at Chargers 43. Fair Catch at Jags 15.

Ball at Chargers 24. Caught at Jags 25. Returned for seven yards.

Ball at Chargers 36. Caught at Jags 23. Returned for loss of two.

Ball at Chargers 31. Caught at Jags 27. Returned for 13 yards.

The Chargers top-to-bottom worst game of the year was probably also Scott’s worst.

Vs. Houston Texans (win)

Ball at Chargers 32. Caught at Houston 15. Fair Catch.

Ball at Chargers 27. Fair Catch at Houston 27.

Ball at Texans 45. Caught at Houston 9. Returned for four yards.

Ball at Chargers 40. Caught at Houston 10. Returned for five yards.

The first punt against the Texans the Chargers were called for fair catch interference. Other than that, it’s the same, Scott kicks them high and there’s little-to-no return.

Vs. Cleveland Browns (win)

Ball at Chargers 35. Fair Catch at Browns 28.

An easy day for Scott. His fewest punts in a game this season.

Vs. Denver Broncos (OT win)

Ball at Broncos 39. Fair Catch at Broncos 21

Ball at Chargers 34. Caught at Broncos 14. Muffed.

Ball at Chargers 15. Fair Catch at Broncos 31

Ball at Chargers 20. Caught at Broncos 32. Muffed.

This is the game I think Scott directly won for the Chargers. Those last two punts came in overtime and were perfect. Deane Leonard got the last muff to set up the game-winning field goal.

Vs. Seattle Seahawks (loss)

Ball at Chargers 23. Caught at Seahawks 27. Returned for zero yards.

Ball at Chargers 42. Out of bounds at Seattle 9.

Ball at Seattle 48. Downed at Seahawks 7.

Ball at Chargers 48. Downed at Seahawks 2.

Ball at Chargers 25. Downed at Seahawks 37.

That fourth punt directly led to a safety for the Chargers, not that it mattered in the loss. There’s no stat on who has the most downed punts for the Chargers this season, but Ja’Sir Taylor had three in this game alone.

Vs. Atlanta Falcons (win)

Ball at Chargers 33. Out of bounds at Atlanta 19.

Ball at Chargers 33. Fair catch at Atlanta 31.

Ball at Chargers 24. Fair catch at Atlanta 32.

Ball at Chargers 40. Fair catch at Atlanta 20.

Now the streak picks up. This is eight Scott punts in a row that aren’t returned. Remember the Chargers had to get a late field goal win this one and I think Scott’s contribution was key.

Vs. San Francisco 49ers (loss)

Ball at Niners 49. Fair catch at Niners 17.

Ball at Chargers 34. Downed at Niners 24.

Ball at Niners 44. Touchback.

Ball at Chargers 37. Fair catch at Niners 23.

Ball at Chargers 28. Fair catch at Niners 30.

Now we’re up to 13 straight Scott punts that aren’t returned. Is that some kind of NFL record? We also see Scott’s lone touchback of the season.

Vs. Kansas City Chiefs (loss)

Ball at Chargers 38. Caught at Chiefs 16. Returned for five yards.

Ball at Chargers 20. Caught at Chiefs 31. Returned for two yards.

Ball at Chargers 34. Downed at Chiefs 14.

And on Scott’s 14th punt, the Chiefs return it, ending the streak. Who makes the tackle? Ja’Sir Taylor.

Vs. Arizona Cardinals (win)

Ball at Chargers 40. Fair catch at Cardinals 12.

Ball at Arizona 44. Downed at Cardinals 18.

Ball at Chargers 18. Caught at Cardinals 41. Returned for 15 yards.

Ball at Arizona 48. Fair catch at Cardinals 6.

Ball at Chargers 36. Out of bounds at Cardinals 25.

Ball at Cardinals 48. Fair catch at Cardinals 10.

The announcers made a big deal when Pharoah Cooper (my cousin) ran back the Scott punt for 15 yards for good reason. It was the longest punt return allowed by the Chargers all year. Now the streak stands at three punts of the last 21 have been returned by opponents.

What Does It All Mean?

It’s a statistical anomaly to not have punts returned. Scott has become a valuable weapon for the Chargers, and people should take notice.