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Clingan, Malone Battle It Out For Punter Job


On the far practice field at Redskins Park – behind all the shouting coaches and grunting big men – are two largely unknown players in white jerseys quietly going about their business.

That's the way punters Blake Clingan and Robert Malone prefer to operate. And with training camp and preseason games right around the corner, they know the heat is about to turn up.

Clingan and Malone are competing for the Redskins' punting job, but instead of taking the "anything you can do, I can do better" approach, they've formed quite the friendship.

"Between me and Blake, it's a friendly competition," Malone said. "We're both hitting it pretty well and we're happy with how OTAs went. We really finished strong, and just want to get better every day."

Malone has the edge over Clingan when it comes to professional experience. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent, signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in April 2010 before his release just three months later.

He then punted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers later that year, when he averaged 41.5 yards per attempt on 52 punts, landing 17 kicks inside the 20-yard line with just five touchbacks.

Two years later, he played in all 16 games with the New York Jets, breaking the franchise record for punting average (45.8), and placed 27 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Malone was signed by the Redskins as a free agent Dec. 31.He said he's been training hard in the weight room, and has seen the fruits of his labor out on the field.

"My hangtimes have been much better this year in terms of consistency," Malone said. "I think my hangtimes are at a peak right now and get better at practice, so it's good."

Clingan, meanwhile, has taken a much different path to the Redskins.

In 2013, the Central Florida product participated in an NFL Regional Combine in New York after taking two years off from football. He caught the attention of the Detroit Lions, but only made the preseason roster after paying his own way to the team's workout.

Although he wasn't ultimately kept on the Lions' regular-season roster, Clingan – who was signed by the Redskins on April 8 – said he learned how to handle a job competition during his time in Detroit.

"I feel like any kind of competition at any position is going to make guys get better," he said. "I think competition is a must to really bring out the best in all our guys."

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week that his coaching staff – including special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica – is "confident we have our punter here on our roster right now."

The first-year head coach said he's eager to see both Clingan and Malone compete on a bigger stage, such as during training camp and in preseason action.

"It's easy to putt on the practice green, you know what I mean?" Gruden said. "Sometimes when you get on a real golf course, the three-footers get a little bit tougher"

Both Clingan and Malone said they're ready to take advantage of those game sitations, which, Clingan said, "is where it matters the most."

"I just take it day by day," he said. "I can't wait to get to camp and try to win that spot."




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