Raiders punter AJ Cole putting together historic start to career

Las Vegas Raiders punter AJ Cole is the next in a long line of elite punters for the franchise.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders / Michael Owens/GettyImages
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Cole is on another level entering 2024

This past season, he was named team captain again and earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl. He also made four different First Teams – Associated Press, Pro Football Writers, NFLPA, and Sporting News.

His 50.4 yards per punt was not only the best in the league, but it was also the 10th best season average in league history.

During the Antonio Pierce debut against the New York Giants, Cole averaged 63.6 yards per punt which is the highest single game average in NFL history.

Similar to when he first won the job after his very first preseason game four years earlier, he isn’t becoming complacent just because of his career success.

"I think if you say you're reaching the peak, it's only downhill from here on out, and I don't believe that," Cole said. "I don't see why there's any reason I can't continue to improve. There are plenty of things that I still feel I can get better at and continue to improve. I wouldn't say there is any theoretical peak, a peak is really just what you establish. I'm always going to think that my best football is ahead of me."

To top off an incredible 2023 season, as a symbolic passing of the torch, AJ Cole broke the Raiders all-time record for longest punt held by Shane Lechler, as Lechler watched it happen in-person from the seats inside Allegiant Stadium. A clutch 83-yard touchback in the 4th quarter of a tie game gave Cole the title.

"It was cool especially considering the history of the punter position here," Cole said after the game.

So while he stands atop NFL history with his career yards per punt number, it’s not just league history he’s impacting, but also the rich history of his team and the legendary company he finds himself in. It’s hard to look at the Raiders record books and not already see his name after just five seasons.

An impressive 45.6% of Cole’s career punts have been downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, along with his current career average of 42 net yards per punt, both which currently stand as a Raiders record – each ahead of King and Lechler, respectively.

Cole is the only Raider with a minimum of 100 career punts to have never had one blocked.

The ultimate crown is Lechler’s franchise record for punt yards (that also stands as 2nd best in NFL history), which Cole is on pace to surpass in just over 11 seasons from now (or in approximately 691 punts).

As the Raiders optimistically look to the future, led by a new regime who want to win now, AJ Cole and his mastery of field position, along with his positive impact on the locker room culture as a team captain, will play an important role in the team’s success. Having your name all over the record books is one thing, but doing that while also positively contributing to playoff wins can become AJ Cole’s ultimate legacy.

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