Saturday, February 16, 2013

For Kicks: Comparing, contrasting AFC East kickers


It's a slow news day. And since this is AFC East Daily and not SportsCenter, we won't try to create a story where there isn't one. We'll just pass the time.

So no news is good news -- for the kickers. The AFC East has a pretty good dynamic of boots, so it's only fair they get their annual 400(ish) words of fame.

Who better to start with than Buffalo Bills kicker Rian Lindell? He made 88 percent of his attempts last season, going 21-of-24 without missing from 30 yards in. Short story shorter, by the numbers, Lindell is a well-above average field goal kicker.  (photo: Alan Kotok, Flickr)

However, Lindell was far and away the worst kickoff man in the NFL in 2012. According to Pro Football Focus, 85.1 percent of his kickoffs were returned, which was by far the highest percentage in the league.

The Bills drafted and hired a kickoff specialist in John Potter last year, but the team released him after six games because head coach Chan Gailey said his 13-to-26 touchback-to-kickoff ratio wasn't good enough. Moving along.

While Lindell was the most accurate field-goaler in the division, New England Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski and Miami Dolphins' Dan Carpenter were more well-rounded.

Gostkowski struggled at times in the 30-49-yard range, but he still finished with an 83 percent make rate, going 8-for-8 inside the 30 and making both of his attempts from 50 or more yards.

He produced touchbacks on just under 47 percent of his kickoffs and averaged 65 yards a kick.

Carpenter averaged 65.4 yards a kickoff and forced touchbacks on 46.2 percent of them. Via PFF, he had the best hang time of kickers in the division.

Carpenter was perfect on field goal attempts in the intermediate range, going 12-for-12 from 39 yards in, and he tallied a solid 8-for-10 mark from 40-49 yards. However, he struggled from long range, making just two of five attempts of 50 yards or more.

New York Jets kicker Nick Folk was the least accurate in the division, making kicks at a 78 percent clip. Folk had good hang time on his kickoffs, but four of every five of them were returned, which wasn't good enough.

Folk is the only one of the four slated to hit free agency. The Jets brought in competition for him last training camp, and he survived in a positional battle with Josh Brown. If he gets re-signed on the relatively cheap, he'll likely have to win the job again.

That was a sprint, but it felt like a marathon. Now, enough about kickers.

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