the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, August 29, 2011

NFC East Specialists 2011

The eighth and final segment of our NFL specialists overview...

Dallas Cowboys
At long snapper is veteran starter L.P. Ladouceur. At punter/holder is veteran starter Mat McBriar along with camp leg rookie Chris Jones from Carson Newman. The kicker position holds all the intrigue and competition. Incumbent David Buehler is back. Undrafted rookie Dan Bailey, the 2010 Lou Groza Award winner, from Oklahoma State started camp very strong on field goals but not as well on kickoffs. That prompted owner Jerry Jones to state they could carry two kickers, although coach Jason Garrett said such talk is very premature. Further clouding the picture was the signing of injured undrafted rookie kicker Kai Forbath, the 2009 Lou Groza Award winner, from UCLA. Then things began to get even cloudier. Buehler suffered a hip flexor and has missed the last few preseason games. The Cowboys then added a fourth kicker to the mix, signing veteran Shayne Graham, recently released by the Redskins.

New York Giants
As a rookie, Matt Dodge had a tumultuous 2010, resulting in a fair amount of scrutiny from fans, the media, and his coach. This August he faces competition for his job from veteran Steve Weatherford, a free agent pickup from the Jets. Weatherford said of Dodges rookie season, “I can’t really imagine that. I think Matt’s a stronger person and player for going through that because all of us go through growing pains as a rookie, but his were made public and the way he dealt with it, I’m very impressed with. I feel like mentally you either melt from that or you grow from it. I think he’s chosen the latter.” The other two specialist spots remain the same as the last several years: Lawrence Tynes the kicker and Zak DeOssie the long snapper. Tynes suffered a thigh contusion in the preseason opener. In the interim, the team tried out veterans Shayne Graham and John Kasay, but opted to go with the third candidate – Rhys Lloyd. He’s best known of late for kickoffs, something Dodge had actually been working on recently.

Philadelphia Eagles
Magician / long snapper Jon Dorenbos is still around, but kicker David Akers and punter Sav Rocca are gone via free agency to San Francisco and Washington respectively. Their roles will be filled by a pair of highly touted rookies. The Eagles drafted the top rated kicker in this year’s class, Alex Henery out of Nebraska. He is the most accurate kicker in NCAA history. They also signed undrafted punter Chas Henry from Florida. He won the Ray Guy Award last year. Special teams coordinator Bobby April noted, "They've both been in high-pressure situations, and they have not succumbed to any pressure at this point, and we don't expect they will at any point. That's the good thing about their background…. we're very happy we have them."

Washington Redskins
Incumbent kicker Graham Gano faced veteran competition from Shayne Graham, who ended last year with the Patriots, although the competition didn’t last very long. Gano went 3-of-3 on FGs in the preseason opener. Shayne went 0-of-2 and was subsequently released. The coaches noted however that they may still bring another competitor for Gano. It’s unclear whether recently signed Clint Stitser is that competition, or he was just a fill-in if Gano missed a little time for paternity leave. Despite becoming a dad days earlier, Gano played against the Colts and again went 3-of-3 on FGs. The team also signed free agent punter Sav Rocca, formerly with the division rival Eagles. He is now with the team after initially having been delayed obtaining a visa out of his native Australia. Nick Sundberg is back for his second year at long snapper.

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