Is NFL kicking going backwards?

The Jaguars, in particular, have been poor on extra point attempts.  Source: Yahoo Sports

The Jaguars, in particular, have been poor on extra point attempts. Source: Yahoo Sports

With the extra point moved back to the 15-yard line at the start of the season to add some excitement to something that was practically a certainty, it’s a good time to look at how kickers have stacked up this year.

Just eight extra points were missed in the entire 2014 season, with just six teams in the NFL failing to convert. However, this season, 69 attempts have been denied or missed and only five teams have remained perfect on the year.

That proves that moving it backwards has helped it from just being an afterthought, it’s caused some teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars to try more two-point attempts and has shown how crucial it can be to have an accurate kicker.

San Diego Chargers chose Josh Lambo because he had a stronger leg than Nick Novak.  Source: MLS Soccer

San Diego Chargers chose Josh Lambo because he had a stronger leg than Nick Novak. Source: MLS Soccer

In terms of field goals, despite it feeling like an odd year, there have been more teams with a 90% or better success rate than last season. There are three teams below 72%, which is abysmal, but the rest of the 22 teams are somewhere in the 80s, which doesn’t look that bad on paper.

2014 had more in the 70s (six to this year’s one, although there are two teams below that number) but overall there are pretty similar stats across the board.

There was an emphasis on kickers with big legs this off-season, with many teams choosing someone who could kick it out of the endzone on kickoffs rather than a solid place-kicker. However, that isn’t shown in the number of attempts beyond 50 yards (153 in 2014, 161 in 2015), which may be a sign that those who do have a strong leg may not have the accuracy needed.

Gostkowski has been sensational, as per usual.  Source: Press Herald

Gostkowski has been sensational, as per usual. Source: Press Herald

Stephen Gostkowski again shows that he is one of the best in the game and for good reason, he has missed just two kicks all year and is perfect in 51 extra point attempts. The two he has missed have come from over 40 yards (he’s 16-18, which is still pretty great) and is one of very few reliable kickers in the league.

While not a significant change, it is becoming more evident than ever who the real quality kickers are and how valuable they can be. Some teams have gone through so many different kickers to find a solution and there is likely to be a stronger focus than ever in the draft and during pre-season to make sure more get it right.

Overall, the standard only seems to have slipped because it’s the missed extra points that stick in the mind. They’ve cost some teams games and that stings a hell of a lot more than a missed field goal, what will be interesting is the comparison with next year and see how things go after a full year’s experience.

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