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Practice – A Kicking Competition! Or Not.

Posted by Matt Terl on August 31, 2009 – 5:49 pm

Despite the absence of Albert Haynesworth, Kareem Moore, Carlos Rogers, and Randy Thomas from this afternoon’s practice, the big news was the kicking competition. Each of the two competitors for the placekicker position attempted seven field goals of varying lengths and in various simulated pressure situations. Shaun Suisham made six and missed one; Dave Rayner made five and missed two.

This was, frankly, a pretty inconclusive result. Here’s head coach Jim Zorn on the subject after practice: “It was good,” he said of the competition. “They both made most of their field goals. I thought it was interesting to see the rhythm and the timing. There are some things that will show up, I think. They’re competing hard. Again, we hope they get some kicks in the game so that we can see more. It will be a last minute decision as we go along here because it’s not clear.”

Meanwhile, these fourteen kicks were such a big deal that the media was allowed to stay out on the sidelines a bit later than usual so they could watch, and the two kickers were swarmed as they came off the field after practice.

Problem was, what was presented to the media as something decisive and interesting didn’t have quite the same cachet for the kickers themselves. Read more »

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Afternoon Practice – Not Kicking The Ball

Posted by Matt Terl on August 4, 2009 – 4:32 pm

When people hear that there’s a special teams practice, I think the general assumption is that this involves special teamers such as kickers doing special-teams-y things like kicking. Mostly, this is not the case. Today, for example, the afternoon practice was a special teams practice in which almost no kicking was done. The kicker would line up with ten guys spread out around him, they’d all run up to the ball, and he’d not kick it.

Incumbent Shaun Suisham would go through the motions of kicking, but challenger Dave Rayner would just run up, faintly swing his leg at the ball, and that would be that. This went on several times, so after practice instead of asking guys about the kicking — which hadn’t happened — I asked Rayner about the not-kicking.

“Well,” he said, mildly confused, “that was just a get-off drill, so the guys know how to run up. Because [Suisham and I] have different approaches.” Read more »

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Sunday, August 2: Hunter Smith, Greatest (Holder) Of All Time?

Posted by Matt Terl on August 2, 2009 – 7:22 am

The kicking competition got off to its official start yesterday, as Shaun Suisham and Dave Rayner attempted field goals for the first time this training camp. Neither of them missed. This may have been because there was no rush, no pressure, and no one else at all on the field.

Or it may be a harbinger of what the kicking game is going to look like this season, no matter which guy wins.

Here’s special teams coach Danny Smith after practice yesterday, explaining what might be the biggest difference in the kicking game this year: new holder Hunter “The Punter” Smith.

“We talk in terms of [Colts kickers] Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt, guys in the top two in the history of the league in terms of field goal percentage. Who was the holder? There’s something to be said for that. He may be the best holder in the history of the game.” The assembled media laughed; Smith is a gifted raconteur, and people naturally assumed that this was some kind of a joke. Smith pressed on, insistent. “I mean, that might be true. You could have that argument!”

It was something that had been brought to my attention a couple of days ago, and the numbers can certainly be read to support the assertion. Vinatieri has been largely consistent through holder changes, but when Vanderjagt changed teams (and therefore holders), his accuracy nosedived. And Suisham’s numbers definitely dipped last year when Ryan Plackemeier took over the holding duties.

So I started asking around about Hunter Smith.

“He’s the most accurate holder in North America,” Suisham said. “Well, I can’t say North America. There could be a crafty Canadian somewhere out there. But you know.” Read more »

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