The LA Rams are now up to their third kicker of the season and have signed former Bucs K Gay. But is he the answer?
The LA Rams are a bit concerning regarding the methods used to find an NFL kicker. The team’s process so far appears to be a dangerous combination of exploring all options, and then seemingly going with the lesser of the available choices. Why that seems to be the case is anyone’s guess. But now, the Rams have opted not to promote Austin MacGinnis from the practice squad. Curious, that.
Instead, the Rams have added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay. And that is another curious development.
As we had noted in a previous article, the LA Rams witnessed Gay kicking prowess in their 55-40 loss to the Buccaneers in 2019. Gay was flawless in that one, kicking seven extra points and two field goals to put up 13 points for the Bucs. His longest in that game was a 56-yarder, and he also hit from 21 yards as well. That’s a pretty good outing for a kicker.
Why was he available?
In many cases, the career of a kicker is based upon his performance from the latest game. So it was the final game of the 2019 season that sealed Gay’s fate as a victim of the NFL waiver. In his final contest in 2019, he missed three field goals against the Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneers lost the game 28-22, and the nine points that he failed to deliver were the difference in the game.
Even if he had made two, the contest would have ended as a tie in regulation, which would have given the Buccaneers an opportunity to win. He also missed a 34-yard head-on field goal against the New York Giants, plus two extra points in the game. The Bucs would go on to lose that game by a single point.
For a rundown of his 2019 field goal range, let’s review:
From a range of 20-29, he was a perfect six for six (100 percent)
From a range of 30-39, he kicked five of seven (71.4 percent, below expectations)
From a range of 40-49, he kicked 11 of 14 (78.6 percent, better than expected)
From a range of 50+, he kicked five of eight (62.5 percent, below expectations)
Overall he kicked 27 of 35 field goals for an accuracy of 77.1 percent
On extra points, he kicked 83 of 89 extra points for an accuracy of 89.6 percent.
Compare the difference
For comparison purposes, I’ll compare Gay’s 2019 performance to that of Greg Zuerlein and Justin Tucker. Starting with Zuerlein.
From a range of 20-29, he was a perfect seven for seven (100 percent)
From a range of 30-39, he kicked seven of eight (87.5 percent, above expectations)
From a range of 40-49, he kicked five of eleven (45.4 percent, below expectations)
From a range of 50+, he kicked five of seven (71.4 percent, below expectations)
Overall he kicked 24 of 33 field goals for an accuracy of 72.7 percent
On extra points, he kicked 42 of 42 extra points for accuracy of 100 percent.
Now to compare with Baltimore Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker, a solid Fantasy Football producer:
From a range of 20-29, he was a perfect eight for eight (100 percent)
From a range of 30-39, he kicked a perfect seven for seven (100 percent)
From a range of 40-49, he kicked 10 of 11 (90.9 percent, better than expected)
From a range of 50+, he kicked a perfect one for one (100 percent)
Overall he kicked 28 of 29 field goals for an accuracy of 96.6 percent
On extra points, he kicked 57 of 59 extra points for an accuracy of 96.6 percent.
More questions than answers
Gay was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. That is a very valuable draft pick to spend on the kicker, but the Buccaneers were convinced that he was worth that value. He kicked for the Utah Utes, where he was described as a rare combination of both distance and accuracy.
"‘He’s a big guy with a big leg and he’s also accurate. Those are a lot of good things that we like about him. He kicks in Utah but he’s also good at sea level. He can kick it far at sea level as well. We liked him as a person and we think he’s a very confident guy. We’ve exhausted everything we can to try to find a kicker and we’ll continue to, like every other position.”“He’s got a strong leg. Usually, those strong-legged guys that can kick it from a far distance have some accuracy issues. This guy has not so far.’- Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht"
That’s a pretty positive statement. But keep in mind, it was necessary to say after the Bucs used a fifth-rounder to draft a kicker. And they cut the kicker to get to the 53-man roster limit for the 2020 NFL season, after just one season.
Handled college pressure well
Per the Rams website, the team cited Gay’s accuracy with Utah, and the fact the Gay was the recipient of the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top collegiate placekicker in 2017. So yes, Gay has potential. Yes, Gay has NFL experience. Yes, he was a relatively cheap addition to the roster.
But the feeling I get from all of the moves for a kicker position is that same uneasiness that I get when I take my automobile to a new repair shop. Particularly when that shop starts swapping parts at some disastrous attempt to fix the car. The Rams had a lot of chances, and have now cycled through five different kickers so far this season. At some point, the question of ‘Do they even know what they are looking for?’ is bound to be asked.
So here we are. Two kickers competing for one LA Rams roster spot. If it seems familiar to you, it is.