The Raiders had two punters coming into camp that each were in very different ends of the spectrum. Marquette King was inconsistent with raw potential to boot long punts when he really got ahold of one - a ‘loose cannon', if you will. Chris Kluwe is the savvy, consistent, dependable veteran with textbook technique.
King was a holdover from last year's camp who the Raiders were able to keep as an undrafted free agent because of an injury he suffered last preseason. The team wanted to see if he could put together that potential and add some sound technique and consistency. Thus far through three weeks of training camp and two preseason games, he has not disappointed.
In the first preseason game, he and Kluwe both had one punt. Kluwe's came off the side of his foot for 36 yards and King's was a sky shot that the return man couldn't handle - despite calling for a fair catch - and the Raiders recovered the muffed fielding.
That was just one punt each and not near enough to judge each punter. But King's punt on top of what he had done in practice had the gap already getting slimmer.
"I've seen [King] consistency get better and I think that's a good battle," Allen said last week. "I think that's a good competition between him and Kluwe. Marquette, he's a guy that's working extremely hard and he's gotten better. The consistency with him as far as the punts, as far as the get-off times - the little details are the things that we're still hoping to see him continue to improve."
The gap had closed enough heading into the second preseason game that Dennis Allen didn't separate the two punters by first half and second half. He simply alternated them back and forth. Each punter got three punts to show their skills and consistency, and King has yet to show the same inconsistency he showed as a rookie.
Now, according to Dennis Allen, that gap has closed.
"I've been impressed with what Marquette's been able to do over the last probably week and a half of training camp and what he was able to do in the last two preseason games so the gap is definitely closed," Allen said Saturday. "I think it's a really good competition that we have going there and we're gonna let that thing play out through the rest of the preseason and see how it plays out."
It is a very interesting battle which is saying a lot considering we are talking about punters here. Punter is a position the Raiders have had two of the greatest ever to take an NFL field - Ray Guy and Shane Lechler.
With Lechler leaving as a free agent this off-season, the rights to his heir apparent is a tall task. King is certainly intriguing. With four punts in this preseason, he has yet to make a mistake. And on Friday, he averaged an eye-popping 57.4 yards per punt compared to Kluwe's 49.3 yards per punt.
At some point it becomes about ratios and percentages. Kluwe is almost automatic to average around 45 yards per punt and never gets blocked because of his quick get-off times. If King can quicken his get-off time and limit his mistakes so much that his booming punts outweigh the few times he makes a mistake, the Raiders may just take a chance King's current talents and potential are too much to let walk away.
With the gap closed, both punters have two games to show their worth to the Raiders. This is getting good.