Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Most Intriguing Training Camp Battles, No. 3: Placekicker

To say the battle between Jay Feely and Dan Carpenter intrigues me isn't really accurate. Rather, this battle worries me. It worries me because of the fact that it's even a battle at all.

As laughable as it is now, I actually had to defend replacing Olindo Mare with Jay Feely to Dolphins fans last offseason. As we all know, Feely was outstanding last season, setting the Dolphins' single-season field goal percentage record at 91.3. Meanwhile, Mare was horrible beyond words. (Though not beyond numbers, ones like 58.8 percent.)

Despite Feely's fantastic performance last season, it seems that Parcells doesn't take kindly to his outspoken nature in the media. I for one could not care less. If my kicker does as well as Feely did last year, he can go on profanity-laden tirades daily. But Parcells does not agree, and he's exerting his authority over arguably the Dolphins' MVP of the 2007 season.

Admittedly, Feely is not that strong on kickoffs and that is another reason for this competition. In 2007, he ranked 31st in the NFL in kickoff average and 15th in touchbacks. (Note: numbers exclude players with fewer than 10 kickoffs.) That being said, 90+ percent field goal kickers are hard to find, and it's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

With Dave Rayner having been released, the lone challenger is undrafted free agent Dan Carpenter. Carpenter has a hell of a leg with a career long field goals of 54-yards at the University of Montana. He progressed each of his four years in terms of field goal percentage, from 62.1 as a freshman, 66.7 as a sophomore, 80.0 a a junior and 82.6 as a senior. He also handled full-time punting duties his junior year.

The position(s): Placekicker

Number of spots: One

The contenders:
Jay Feely, Dan Carpenter

Predicted winner(s):
Feely

Reason:
Kickoff struggles or no, Feely was just too good last season to cut loose. Carpenter would have to blow him away in camp to earn the job, and that just does not seem likely. Carpenter would be a strong kickoff specialist, but I've never been a big fan of using two roster spots on kickers. If it's all that important, why not just have punter Brandon Fields, who also has a great leg, work at it?