If the Dallas Cowboys want to address their kicker situation they’d be wise to keep an eye on Carolina and their current field goal competition
Brett Maher hasn’t exactly instilled confidence in his kicking ability as of late. Maher has struggled most of training camp. And those struggles have spilled over into game situations in the preseason, with Maher missing field goals in both of the Dallas Cowboys preseason games.
The most troubling part of all of this is that it doesn’t deviate from Brett Maher’s norm. After the hot start last season, Maher’s accuracy cooled and he regressed to his norm. On the year, Maher made just over 80 percent of his field goal attempts. He may have dazzled fans with his range but he frustrated them with his inconsistency.
Brett Maher’s career has shown us he’s the kind of kicker who can nail a 57-yarder and then the next moment, shank a 35-yarder. While he’s well above league average beyond 50 yards, he’s well below league average between 30-49.
So with his offerings now well established, we can feel confident in our lack of confidence and may need to look outside the organization. All across the NFL, kicker competitions are taking place. Field goal kicking in general is extremely inconsistent year to year, meaning the Dallas Cowboys are not alone in their uneasiness.
The Carolina Panthers are going through a difficult competition themselves. And the loser of that competition may actually be an upgrade to Brett Maher in Dallas. That’s why Carolina is worth watching right now.
The incumbent starter in Carolina is a name most of us are familiar with: Graham Gano. The former Redskins kicker has been in Carolina the past seven seasons and has carved out quite the career – even earning a Pro Bowl spot just two seasons ago. But Gano is hardly a shoe-in for that job here in 2019.
Hampered by injury, Gano has been on ice this preseason and in his place a younger, cheaper, more powerful option is shining. If Carolina wants to replace their aging leg with a fresher option, Gano could be the one on the market.
How much of an upgrade would Gano be to Maher? Gano may not have the booming distance as Maher but he can still offer touchbacks and a few long-distance 3-pointers. In fact, just last season he hit a 63-yarder. That ain’t chump change.
If Gano can’t get back in time, Carolina may opt for their younger option: Joey Slye. Slye has been tearing it up in Panthers camp this summer. In the preseason he’s a perfect 5 for 5 on attempts with a long of 54-yards.
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The 23-year-old Slye is a kicker every team with kicking problems seems to be watching right now, but he wasn’t always a coveted asset. The former walk-on had a rough senior year that saw his field goal percentage drop below 70 percent on the year. Virginia Tech’s all-time leading scorer needed to refine his game and increase his accuracy for a shot in the NFL. And Slye did just that.
For better or for worse, the 5’11 218lbs Slye looks a lot like former Dallas Cowboys kicker, David Buehler. Buehler was an abnormally strong and athletic kicker the Dallas Cowboys drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft (that’s right -5th). Both are uber-strong, capable of touchbacks, long-distance field goals, and running down ball carriers. The difference is Buehler never developed consistency in his intermediate kicks.
At this point, it looks like Slye has.
Graham Gano is the favorite for the Carolina job so as long as he’s healthy by Week 1, he’s their man. That means Joey Slye is going to be available for kicker-needy teams like the Dallas Cowboys. The only catch is, with so much competition, Dallas may need to trade a fringe player or else risk losing out on him to another team.