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The Kicking Competition Is Kind Of Underwhelming

Posted by Matt Terl on August 24, 2009 – 12:20 pm

The most overt position battle this training camp has to be at the kicker position. There’s the incumbent, Shaun Suisham,and the challenger, Dave Rayner. They both have four years in the league, and they have similar career averages — Rayner at 71% and Suisham at 77.9%. Only one guy is going to make the roster.

So it’s a little strange at how little actual action there’s been in this battle. Here’s where the numbers stand, after Saturday night’s game: Suisham is 1-for-1 on field goals, having hit from 20 yards. Rayner has no field goal attempts.

Rayner is 2-for-2 on extra points; Suisham has no extra point attempts.

Suisham has one kickoff, which went for 67 yards and was returned for 26. Rayner’s average kickoff yardage is longer — 70.5 yards — but the average return yardage is also longer, at 37.25.

In other words, no one has really distinguished themselves in this matchup yet. And after the game on Saturday, no one was really talking about it, either.

“I’m on high alert,” Shaun Suisham said. “You’re trying to set me up.”

I had asked how he would split the kicks in the upcoming game against the Patriots, but he was — as you may have gathered — on high alert, and his answer reflected that. “But I can’t” decide how to split the kicks, he said, “so you’re asking a question that’s not relevant. I’d give Hunter [Smith] the punts.”

The usually loquacious Smith was equally close-mouthed. Here’s my Hunter Smith interview transcript, unedited and in its entirety.

On the fake punt:
“Yes, it was great.”

On if it was nice to punt a little less this week:
“Yeah, for sure.”

The only person of the group who was somewhat forthcoming was Rayner, but even he wasn’t able to bust out with bold, declarative statements.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think I did well. I think I did what I needed to do. The farther I kicked the ball, the farther they brought it out; I don’t get that.”

He didn’t think the return distance had to do with his kicks, but hadn’t had a chance to be sure yet. “I don’t think so. Obviously, we’ve gotta look at some film and figure out why they brought it out that far. But I was happy with all the three kickoffs that I had. I was happy with direction and distance and hangtime … everything.”

I asked about his tackling form on one of those long returns — the last one, I believe, and suffice it to say that the form was not great — and he looked at me skeptically. “You can’t really call that a tackle,” he said. “I grind the cleats down on my shoes, and I went to push off … it was a sorry display. I slowed him up a little bit, though.”

He shrugged, then offered the main positive takeaway from Saturday’s salvo in the kicker battle. “I dunno. At least we got some reps tonight.”

(DC Sports Bog reaches similar conclusion here.)

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