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'My best football is ahead of me': AJ Cole continues striving for perfection after setting NFL single-game punting average record

AJ Cole has yet to have his finest hour.

He was persistent in making that clear when asked if he believes he's playing his best football this season.

Statistically speaking though, he is.

Through nine games, Cole is sitting at career-high marks in yards per punt (52) and percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (50 percent). He's also leading the league in net yards per punt (47.3) and is Pro Football Focus' highest graded punter at 89.6.

In Week 9 against the New York Giants, he set the single-game NFL record for highest punt average (min. four punts) with a whooping 63.6 yards per punt. Cole didn't realize he broke the record until one of the Raiders media relations coordinators texted him about it that night.

"I didn't even know what the record was or who had it," Cole said. "It's not something I set as a goal like, 'I want to accomplish this.' But in hindsight, it's really cool I got to do it. I think it's a record that belongs within the Raiders organization with the history of punters here. I'm happy I was able to get it."

The recent success of the two-time Pro Bowler has not made him content by any means. It's only made the fire within himself burn brighter.

"I think if you say you're reaching the peak, it's only downhill from here on out. I don't believe that," Cole said. "I don't see why there's any reason I can't continue to improve. There are plenty of things that I still feel I can get better at and continue to improve. I wouldn't say there's any theoretical peak, a peak is really just what you establish as. I'm always going to think that my best football is ahead of me."

Cole's contributions haven't gone unnoticed by Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce. During Friday morning media availability, he said the punter was voted Player of the Week by the locker room, and was rewarded with a prime parking spot at the practice facility.

"What AJ did the other night, I don't think we talked enough about it," said Pierce. "The NFL single-game record, changed field position for us, the coverage unit was great, the protection unit was good. Just to watch how those guys celebrated and [understood] what he accomplished.

"Our special teams has been our core," he added. "They've probably been the strength of our team each and every game, giving us opportunities. Along with [Daniel] Carlson, they've done an outstanding job along with our kicking coverage.

Cole's record-breaking performance is also a representation of the cohesiveness with his fellow special teamers. This is his fifth season as teammates with All-Pro kicker Daniel Carlson, and the two are continuing to build their relationship with special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, in his second year with the team, and long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer, who was brought in this offseason.

"I've played my entire career with Daniel so the trust that me and him have in each other and the working relationship we have is super helpful on gameday," said Cole. "And I think Bob [Bobenmoyer] has done an awesome job this year coming in. We've put a lot of time in, put a lot of work in throughout the spring, throughout the summer, Training Camp, early part of the season, so it's cool to see it kind of paying off. He's been snapping really, really well lately and so we're appreciative of all the work he put in.

"The battery and the trust we have in each other is definitely important."

As the Raiders prepare for their Week 10 game at Allegiant Stadium, take a look back at past matchups between the Silver and Black and the New York Jets.

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