The Ravens still have one more preseason game to slog through before the regular-season opener Sept. 10 at the Cincinnati Bengals, but Sam Koch might be itching to begin the 2017 campaign as quickly as possible.
The punter looked in midseason form as he dropped six of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line in Saturday night's 13-9 win against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium. Last season, his single-game high was five punts inside the 20 in a 21-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 6.
At 35 years old, Koch trails only tight end Benjamin Watson (36) on the team in age, but the 12-year pro said he feels much younger than when he was selected by the organization in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL draft.
"Honestly, it's crazy because my body feels better now than it did when I first got into the league," Koch said. "Just the amount of time that I've spent on my body and just the workouts and physical therapy and massage and stuff like that I do, it's just crazy. So it keeps my body in shape, and I feel a lot younger. I'm a young 35. It's just a number, but my body feels really good, especially right now. Hopefully, I can keep it that way."
Through Saturday's games, Koch leads the league with a net average of 45.5 yards and is tied for second in punts inside the 20 with nine. Obviously, those numbers could change in the regular season, which is a much different animal from the preseason. But Koch said he is willing to accept diminished statistics if they benefit the team.
"My whole objective every game is to go out there and put our team in the best situation," he said. "There's going to be those games where we might be in pooch territory a lot more and we don't get the numbers that we want, but we're going to get inside the 20. So as long as I help our defense play with a lot of green at their backs, that's a win for me."
Koch's punting prowess proved pivotal for the team Saturday. His first punt was fair-caught at the Bills' 14. After a first down via penalty, Buffalo was forced to punt from the 16, which set up 40-yard field goal from Justin Tucker with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, Koch located a punt at the Bills' 13. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback T.J. Yates was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill, and the offense took advantage when quarterback Josh Woodrum connected with rookie running back Taquan Mizzell for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 2:49 remaining.
"I'm trying to get there as far as timing and working with the first team and getting as many team reps as we can," Koch said. "It's good. There were a couple that I didn't really like as much tonight. I just didn't get as deep as I wanted, but things are going good. Our rhythm is getting better as a team and as a unit, and it's good to see those guys covering punts."