the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, August 15, 2011

NFC South Specialists 2011

Our preseason tour of NFL specialists swings through the NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons entered camp with five specialists on the roster. Only two were with the team last year: long snapper Joe Zelenka and kicker Matt Bryant. Signed for the final five games of 2009 to replace the eventually retiring Jason Elam, would-be free agent Bryant was re-signed following the lockout. Gone via free agency is punter/holder/kickoff-specialist Michael Koenen. Competing to replace him are rookie Matt Bosher, whom the Falcons drafted out of Miami FL, and Ken Parrish, who has impressed in NFL camps in recent years plus has UFL experience. Undrafted rookie snapper Andrew Schulze out of Iowa rounds out the quintet.

Carolina Panthers
Since the beginning of time, John Kasay was the Panthers kicker. But that changes this year, as the team no longer wanted to carry a second kicker to handle kickoffs, as they had done in recent years with Rhys Lloyd. They splurged in free agency on a kicker who has done well in both roles – Olindo Mare. The other two specialist jobs for the Panthers will remain the same as the last few years: J.J. Jansen will again be the long snapper and Jason Baker the punter and holder. Two undrafted rookies are serving as camp legs: kicker Adi Kunalic from Nebraska and punter Anthony Santella from Illinois.

New Orleans Saints
Two of 2009’s playoff heroes are secure in their specialist roles as the Saints enter training camp. Garrett Hartley will handle the placekicking while Thomas Morstead will again handle the punting, kickoffs and holding. The long snapping position has been less stable. Last year they went through Kevin Houser, Jason Kyle, Jake Ingram, and ended with Justin Drescher. Kyle was cut from the team this July after failing a physical. That leaves Drescher with the starting job, unless undrafted rookie Kyle Nelson out of New Mexico State can unseat him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs grabbed free agent Michael Koenen from the division rival Falcons. He handles punting, kickoffs, and holding. He’s backed up in camp by Robert Malone from Fresno State. After going through several kickers during the first half of 2009, Connor Barth secured the job for the second half and remains the starter. He’s joined in camp by the recently signed undrafted rookie Jacob Rogers out of Cincinnati. Andrew Economos tore his Achilles tendon during the lockout, but is hoping to be ready for the season opener. Handling the snapping in camp is undrafted rookie Christian Yount out of UCLA.

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