This week, the Seattle Seahawks play the Baltimore Ravens, and there’s a lot going on: Earl Thomas returning to Seattle, the chance to get to 6-1 for only the second time in franchise history, the endless fight for beak supremacy, etc. But an extremely important topic that people are starting to rumble about has nothing to do with the team’s opponent and more to do with its special teams.
It’s the punter, Michael Dickson.
First, a background refresher. Dickson was drafted in the fifth round last year after a stellar college career that included a rare bowl game MVP award (the prestigious Texas Bowl, which you definitely watched). You think football teams just hand out MVP awards to punters? It’s easier for war criminals to get Nobel Peace Prizes. Dickson is also famously Australian, meaning his joining the Seahawks had a noticeably positive effect on the total consumption of Vegemite in the locker room. He ended up as AP’s first-team All Pro punter in his rookie season. Eat it, Johnny Hekker. Yes, the Vegemite too.
We marveled at Dickson’s hangtime and his ability to kick the ball far down the field, ruining opponents’ hope of decent field position. We delighted in the novelty of dropkick kickoffs. Dickson received national attention for his punting prowess, and we devoured it. We also immediately took it for granted.
Things are not quite the same this season. In the Seahawks’ only loss of the season, a poor punt from Dickson, low and short, was returned for a touchdown by the Saints. Another, just this past Sunday in Cleveland, was shanked from Seattle’s own end zone, leading to a very-short-field touchdown drive that flipped the lead to the Browns. The punts aren’t up to 2018 standards and luckily haven’t cost the Seahawks too much, as Russell Wilson has reached that point in the anime where he gains a new power level and shiny golden hair. But it’s concerning nonetheless.
We don’t know what happened to Dickson, but there are a few theories out t/here. Only one of these can be the most likely, but let’s go through them and offer a potential solution to each:
Problem 1: Dickson went back to Australia in the offseason
Oz is an incredibly dangerous place, full of hostile creatures whose only purpose in life is to poison as many other living beings as possible. And that’s just the makers of Foster’s. The actual animals are even worse. Could Dickson have been poisoned while he was back home and returned to Seattle still in need of recovery? I hope not and don’t believe it, but it’s impossible to rule out.
Solution: Drizzle an antidote to cure the poison
Problem 2: Dickson tweaked something in the offseason
Punters (and kickers) live off the football grid, left to figure things out on their own. Most teams don’t even coach them beyond telling them to “make good kick.” Like many punters, Dickson spent his offseason working on new tricks and new methods of kicking the ball to squeeze just a little more effectiveness out of his punts. As I have never punted outside of a backyard — sorry again, next-door neighbors — I don’t know enough to say whether Dickson has changed his mechanics as part of this offseason training regimen. If he has, it’s not quite working and probably none of the coaches even know.
Solution: Undo the tweaks, punt the ball like last year, making good kick instead
Problem 3: Dickson is bad now
I absolutely refuse to accept this as a possibility. He’s just not good now, washed at 23 years old? Give me a break.
Solution: No, because this option can go straight to hell
Problem 4: Dickson is in a slump
I left this one for last because I think it the most likely. Assuming that Dickson did not get poisoned by a wallaby or voluntarily decide to kick worse, we are left with one last explanation: he’s going through some things. His relationship with the ball is rocky. We all have these down moments in our lives when it seems like we can’t do much right for ourselves or others. We’re an imperfect species, even when we try our best. Sometimes the only explanation is that there is no explanation. What do we need in these situations? We need support from which to build ourselves back up. We, as fans, are quite capable of doing a bad job of this at times for struggling players.
If the Seahawks are going to continue to make 2019 another season to remember and maybe make some progress in the playoffs, it would be just that much easier if Michael Dickson returned to form and gave the team back their field-flipping weapon. Let’s take this opportunity to support our punter through this little slump and get him back to being the punting genius we all know he can be.
Solution: Believe in and support Dickson as he works to get back to his All Pro standard of punting. Boo the 49ers instead. They deserve it.