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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – On a day where Tim Tebow and anonymous quotes were all the talk at the Jets facility, punter Robert Malone somehow squeezed out a rare compliment from head coach Rex Ryan on Wednesday afternoon. The irony is that he has Tebow to thank for it.

Ryan was talking about the impact that Tebow has had on his team this season and mentioned the once scoffed at idea of his role on special teams as a personal punt protector. Tebow’s impact has been felt on special teams, including most recently in Week 6 when the Jets faked a punt and he tossed to linebacker Nick Bellore for a 23-yard gain and a first down. It was a major moment in what turned out to be a Jets blowout win over the Colts.

But what’s not been talked about is the impact that Tebow’s presence is having on Robert Malone’s ability to punt.

“I didn’t know at first, I didn’t know how players were going to play it at first,” Malone told The Jets Blog of having Tebow in as a personal punt protector. “I thought it was going to be cool that there would be possibilities of trick plays but I had no idea the impact that would be had with him back there and how it’d open things up.”

It turns out that teams, uncertain of Tebow’s presence, aren’t rushing as many players to try and get a block. This is helping Malone immensely.

Through nine games, Malone is having his best overall year punting, averaging 46.7 yards per kick (last year in one game with the Lions, his only appearance of the season, he averaged 49 yards on just five punts). He also has four punts inside the 20-yardline as he looks set to eclipse his personal best of five punts inside the 20-yardline which he set two years ago.

“Teams are maybe rushing four guys,” Malone said. “Sometimes, many teams will rush maybe up to eight so it is a big difference really. You just don’t feel that pressure and you can set up better, not rush through it and get the kick off the right way.”

Malone for one is thankful for Tebow’s presence back there, even if he has been blocked twice so far this year. Overall, the net impact of having a personal punt protector with Tebow’s skillset has been a great benefit to Malone.

Teams simply have to be wary of Tebow and his ability to turn what should be a punt into a possible extension of a drive.

“Last week, they showed us the softest looks. You have to respect that – he’s not just a decoy,” Malone said.

“We’ve had a couple unfortunate plays – they weren’t Tim’s fault. As far as the rush comes, teams don’t do it as much. If you rush too many, we can slip behind them and they can get burnt.”

Follow Kristian R. Dyer at @KristianRDyer for Jets breaking news and info from Florham Park.

Tags: Tim Tebow, New York Jets, special teams, mike westhoff, Robert Malone, Editorial Aside, Player Profile, Nick Bellore
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