WATFORD, England — The Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Dickson knows his unconventional punting style is likely to catch the eye of a few kicking enthusiasts in England.
Punts don’t score points, though, so he believes the fans might be a bit more dazzled by Seattle placekicker Sebastian Janikowski.
“The drop kick is cool,” Dickson said. “You do that in rugby a lot. I don’t know if we’ll be doing it too much … so (Janikowski) hitting a few field goals will probably get the crowd pretty happy, I’d say.”
Dickson found himself in the spotlight on Sept. 17 when he tried a drop kick during a kickoff, and later an onside kick, in the Seahawks’ 24-17 loss to the Chicago Bears.
On Sunday, the rookie from Sydney by way of Texas will take his technique to London as the Seahawks face the Oakland Raiders in the first of three NFL games to be played at Wembley Stadium this season.
The drop kick may be much more common in rugby, but Dickson, who didn’t touch a football until 2014, never played the sport. Instead, he grew up playing Australian Rules Football, and as a defender it was partly his responsibility to kick the ball away.
“I had a big kick when I was playing Aussie rules football, so I decided that I wanted to give (the NFL) a go one day,” Dickson said. “I didn’t really know about the college football process or anything and hadn’t really watched much American football. I just knew I liked it when I tried out and met an Australian punting coach, and it kind of just took off from there.”
Seattle liked Dickson enough to trade up with the Denver Broncos to draft him in the fifth round. He unseated Jon Ryan, the Seahawks’ punter for the last 10 seasons, and in Week 1 became the first NFL player to average more than 59.9 yards on six punts — including a 69-yarder in the third quarter of Seattle’s 27-24 loss at Denver.
“Field position is enormously important to our style of play, and Michael kicking the ball deep, pinning them back, is important, but (so is) changing the field with some kicks that he’s capable of doing — not to mention the other things,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “The placement of the ball and the things like that … (are) a lot of really cool things that you don’t normally get from a punter, so we’re just trying to go with it and really understand how to better utilize him.”
A few of those cool things were unveiled against Chicago, with Seattle turning to Dickson rather than Janikowski to try to pin the Bears deep after they were penalized on a third-quarter extra point attempt.
Dickson, from the 50, kicked the ball after a bounce to the Bears 1-yard line, where it was returned to the 15 by Anthony Miller. It was the first drop kick since 2015, when the New England Patriots’ Nate Ebner, an Olympic rugby sevens player, tried it on a kickoff against the Philadelphia Eagles.
If that wasn’t enough, Dickson was called upon to try to drop kick an onside kick with 14 seconds remaining, but the Bears recovered it.
“It’s always a concern, and it’s a little unpredictable where it can go, but in a way, you like that,” Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider said. “The good thing is you can disguise it where you want it to go much easier than if it was a kicker.”
Dickson, who entered the week fourth in the league with 1,348 gross punting yards, downplayed the drop kicks, saying there are a number of factors that go into how and where he punts the ball.
Fittingly, the last thing he wants is to become predictable.
“Depending on what teams show what fronts they have and what personnel they have out there, you know, different kicks work for different teams,” Dickson said. “There is some room, but it’s not going to be an every-week thing.”