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Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch quietly making his mark on the punting game

The small things sometimes get lost in an abysmal season like this one, but Ravens punter Sam Koch might be having his best season ever.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens punter Sam Koch's career to this point has been very successful, with him currently holding the Ravens records for most punting yards and highest career yards per punt average. When he was resigned by the Ravens this past season, the reactions from Ravens fans were not supportive for the most part, despite Koch having one of the best seasons of a great career. This year he has continued with more of the same, posting a new career high for average punt yards and net punt yards for the second year in a row.

So what has changed for Koch for him to improve so much the past 2 years?

Jamison Hensley reported that Koch has revolutionized the punting game in the past year, yet no one has taken notice:

We need something extra. The thought reverberated for Sam Koch. In four days, the Baltimore Ravens would face one of the NFL's most explosive punt returners. Koch, a veteran punter in his ninth season, wanted to have a little something extra for him.

So as the Ravens gathered for their Wednesday practice, special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg suggested a twist. Let's see if we can fool him. Koch began experimenting. He angled his body toward the right sideline, a pre-snap position that usually indicates the kick's direction, and torqued his hips and right leg toward the left sideline without changing his horizon -- ultimately sending the ball some 40 yards toward the opposite sideline a returner would expect.

"After a few minutes," Rosburg said, "we knew we had something."

The effect was immediate and, without exaggeration, has turned punting strategy in the NFL upside down. Yet almost no one has noticed.

Koch punted six times in that initial game, a Week 9 matchup in 2014 with Pittsburgh Steelers returner Antonio Brown on the field. Brown made four fair catches, and the other two punts rolled out of bounds.

This led to more experimenting,  and Koch now possesses 10 different punts in his repertoire including a boomerang punt, a knuckler, a punt that drops and makes and "S."

Per Hensley:

Others use an intentionally low trajectory to aid coverage teams. He has a knuckler and one kick that drops, from the returner's perspective, roughly in the shape of the letter "S." Two weeks ago, he debuted a "boomerang" punt that does just what you would imagine it might. Most, but not all, of these punts are intended to discourage a clean catch and minimize the return.

These innovations have led to Koch ranking at the top of the NFL in most categories. This season, Koch has already tricked top notch return men like Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals, who had to get out of the way on one punt after signaling fair catch, and Tavon Austin of the Rams, who fumbled a return against Koch. This has also led to teams, like the Rams in week 11 to put 2 returners on the field and sacrifice a blocker to mitigate the effects of Koch's mad skills.

Some have tried more recently to copy some of Koch's strategies, but none have successfully implementing them consistently despite it being over a year since he started (week 8 of 2014).

Where do you see the effect of his creativity most? In the lack of return yards: 166 on 60 punts in 2014 and 165 on 59 punts so far in 2015. Koch's lowest season before 2014 was 245 in 2008 (on 84 punts), and his average was 347.5 for his first 8 years (on an average of 81 punts). So Koch has cut his return yards in half for the past 2 seasons.

With his average yards per punt and net yards per punt the best of his career, not to mention being top 5 in both for 2014 and 2015 and #1 in net yards both years, Koch deserves to be in the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year. Then again, he got snubbed last year, and with his innovation going under the radar so far, he probably will be again this year. But Ravens fans should take notice and appreciate Koch.