The Texans shored up their special teams on Friday by signing punter Donnie Jones, a free agent who spent the last five seasons with the St. Louis Rams.
Jones is now the second punter on the roster. He joins Brett Hartmann, an undrafted rookie in 2011 who’s still rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered on Dec. 4. Hartmann is suspended for the first three games of the 2012 season because of a failed drug test.
The Texans still do not have a kicker, as Neil Rackers remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent. Rackers went 59-of-68 (86.8 percent) on field goals over the last two seasons in Houston.
Special teams coordinator Joe Marciano discussed Jones, Hartmann and Rackers on Friday at Reliant Stadium:
What excites you about this signing?
“We got a veteran player who’s young in age. You know, 31’s not old by any means. He’s a local guy – he’s from Baton Rouge, so I consider him local. I’ve watched him punt throughout his career, and overall, I think he’s a solid addition to our team as a person and as a player.”
Jones was top-four in the NFL in net punting average from 2007-10 but 26th in 2011. What happened, and are you concerned about the drop-off?
“I think when you look at numbers, you’ve got to watch the tape to see where they were punting; what type of coverage teams he had. Did they miss tackles? Did he have good core special teams guys playing with him? You’ve got to go to tape and see what happened. All I know is he came out in 2004 and he got cut in the middle of the year, and then two years later, he has a 50-yard average and is number one in the league. So he’s proven he can work through the growing pains. He’s met some adversity. He’s dealt with it. He’s moved on. Like I said, I’m glad we got him.”
How does he rate as far as hang time and other particular attributes?
“He can hang the ball. That’s the number one prerequisite of a punter. I watched his whole season last year. He started out real strong. Coming out of training camp and in the preseason games, he had more 5.0s [hang time] in the first four games than I’ve seen around here in a long time. I’m gonna tell you, the guy can hit a 5.0. He can angle punt. He can punt the ball out of bounds if you need to. He’s pretty good at everything. And he’s a good holder – a really good holder.”
Where does this leave Brett Hartmann?
“Well, Brett’s gotta understand, he has to compete when he comes back. We know Brett has the ability to kick off really, really well. Just come in and compete. Last year, he was practically handed the job and it was his to screw up, but he did pretty good. Now, he has to compete for the punting job.”
Does Jones kick off?
“He can, in a pinch.”
Where do things stand with Neil Rackers?
“We’d like to have Neil back, but now it’s in the agent and [vice president of football administration] Chris Olsen’s hands.”
Tags: Brett Hartmann, Donnie Jones, Free agency, Joe Marciano, Neil Rackers
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