Chiefs Training Camp Preview: Kickers

To paraphrase former Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel: “We call it football, so the foot is part of the game.”

Back in 2009, Ryan Succop was selected with the final pick of the draft – Mr. Irrelevant, as it’s been dubbed. Since that time, the former South Carolina graduate has become one of the highest-paid and most reliable kickers in the NFL, making him the most successful Mr. Irrelevant in the draft’s history.

Why then did the Chiefs invite undrafted rookie Cairo Santos to camp?

The reasons are two-fold: first, 2013 yielded Succop’s worst field goal percentage since 2010 and second, the younger Santos is said to have a significantly more powerful leg. It’s not uncommon that formerly great kickers somehow lose confidence and are never the same again. See: Vanderjagt, Mike.

I’m not suggesting this is the case with Succop – he finished last season 22-28 overall. One of his six misses was a blocked 57-yarder against Dallas, two others came from beyond 50 yards and a fourth sailed wide in the snowy conditions against Washington.

The kicking game typically falls victim to the sports cliché it doesn’t matter… until it matters. In a perfect world, Andy Reid’s offense would be potent enough that missing an occasional field goal wouldn’t have much bearing on the outcome of games. Kansas City lost two games in which Succop missed field goals – the first came against Indianapolis and seemed to significantly swing momentum at the time, the second was a potential game winner the following week when the Chiefs’ reserves were fighting tooth and nail against the (eventual) playoff-bound Chargers.

Perhaps the biggest knock on Succop has been his lack of power. Rather oddly, his kickoffs improved dramatically in 2013 while his accuracy from 50+ was his worst since 2011.

Enter native Brazilian and former consensus All-American out of Tulane Cairo Santos, a player that could prove to be more than just training camp competition for Succop. In his 2012 All-American season, Santos finished 21-21 on field goals and had the nation’s highest touchback percentage by putting 31 of 55 kickoffs out of the endzone. His power has never been questioned despite his 5’8, 160-pound frame but his accuracy dwindled as a senior after a tragic accident claimed the life of his father back in Brazil.

Santos played for Brazil’s U-15 team and was a member of Fluminense’s academy system – a squad that has produced the likes of current international stars Thiago Silva and Marcelo, along with Sporting KC’s starting right back Igor Juliao. As an exchange student in Florida, Santos shone on both the soccer and football fields but earned himself a scholarship to Tulane as a placekicker, ending a once-promising soccer career.

It’s difficult to predict performance, especially from kickers… especially from rookie kickers.

Things to consider:

  1. All of Santos’ collegiate home games were played at the Superdome.
  2. Finished his senior year 16-23 but was 4-4 prior to his father’s tragic death
  3. Put 47 of 62 kickoffs into the endzone as a senior and only allowed 13 returns overall

 

Ideally, the only factor in final roster decisions for the Chiefs would be performance. In this day and age however – especially with Kansas City’s recent cap struggles – money tends to play a considerable factor, which could ultimately prove to be the reason Santos makes the roster over the more experienced Succop. If this is a true competition, we might see each kicker get two full games apiece while the coaching staff places a noticeable emphasis on the kicking game. Either way, Dave Toub will have a tough decision on his hands.

You’ll have to forgive me for skipping the in-depth analysis on Thomas Gafford and Dustin Colquitt… they’re both locks to make the roster, so I decided to save my breath.

Prediction: Chiefs cut Succop, opting for the younger/cheaper Santos

 

This concludes my positional analysis for the Countdown to Training Camp series. I’ll release a full explanation of my roster choices on Thursday to accompany the start of camp. The final tallies are as follows:

QB – 4
RB – 5
TE – 4
WR – 5
OL – 7
DL – 5
LB – 9
CB – 5
Safety – 5
Specialists – 3

Total – 52 players

*the extra roster spot is being reserved for a waiver claim after final cuts

 

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