There are plenty of position battles to watch in Philadelphia, Minicamp and OTA’s proved that. As we look toward training camp, competition is the theme for Doug Pederson’s Eagles with roster spots up for grabs in just about every position. But there’s one position that is being overlooked by many that could hold much more weight than we think.
The battle, is between Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis as they jostle between themselves for the role of starting kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles. But why should we be focusing on a positional battle at the kicker position?
The answer is simple. It’s not until you look beneath the surface that you understand just how crucial a consistent kicker is for the Eagles.
The birds missed a total of five field goals during the 2015 season. That may not sound like much, but when you realize the team attempted 26 and that those five attempts equate to 19% of their field goals missing the target, the weight of the situation begins to reveal itself.
Unsurprisingly, the Eagles ranked 4th in missed kicks last season. What is surprising is that they ranked this highly despite attempting the fifth least amount of field goals. The correlation is worrying. We know that Sturgis struggled last year but for a team who were reluctant to bring the field goal unit onto the field, the conversion rate should theoretically be much, much higher.
It wasn’t just the amount of missed field goals that damaged the Eagles season however, it was how important those 15 points could have been.
There were four games last season where the Eagles lost by three points or less. If the team had gone on to win those games, they would have had ended with a total 11 wins. Chip Kelly would likely still be the Head Coach after another successful season and the birds could have potentially enjoyed a relatively deep playoff run.
All of a sudden, the importance of ensuring the most consistent kicker of the two makes the final roster becomes paramount.
Cody Parkey is coming off an injury that sidelined him for 13 games of the regular season. Prior to that however, he still started 2015 a little wobbly. After missing a field goal in the season opener against the Falcons, Parkey made a field goal in his next two games. Both kicks were over 30 yards.
Everyone is quick to forget the success Parkey enjoyed in 2014 however. Parkey nailed 32/36 field goal attempts and broke the single season record for rookie points, previously held by Kevin Butler..a record that stood for 29 years.
Caleb Sturgis on the other hand strangely had his most successful season to date. As a rookie for the Dolphins, Sturgis converted 76.5% of his attempts, completing 26/34 field goals. A year later, he put 29/37 attempts through the posts for a 78.4% completion rate. For the Eagles, that percentage again rose..this time to 81.4%, despite missing on 4 attempts.
In Mandatory Minicamp, the kickers have been going head to head..but it’s Sturgis who appears to have the edge, ever so slightly.
Caleb Sturgis outkicked Cody Parkey yet again. Both were good from 33, 43, but Parkey’s kick from 48 bounced off the left upright. #Eagles
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) June 7, 2016
At this point, it isn’t safe to assume that Parkey will reassume his role as the starting kicker.While Sturgis may not have said the world on fire, in his last five games he completed all five of his field goal attempts..the 26 year old isn’t going to relinquish his staring job without a fight.
It’s obviously very early days yet and there is plenty that can change..but to overlook the importance of the kicker position in a new Offense that could well rely on field goals to give them an edge in the early games isn’t wise. Especially considering that Pederson is coming from an Offense that attempted the 6th most amount of field goals of any team last year.
It may not be as glamorous as the battle in the backfield or as exciting as the competition at cornerback..but there is a very important decision to be made when it comes to special teams, and it could carry more weight than many would like to admit.
Photo credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports