For the first time in over two decades, the Detroit Lions can’t write Jason Hanson‘s name in big Sharpie marker in the lineup. There have been other kickers in Lions camp before but there was never a true competition for the job.
That changed this year with Hanson’s retirement. In came veteran David Akers and youtube star turned NFL kicker Håvard Rugland. Both players have been solid in practice and in the two preseason games to date. While their performances might suggest they are on even standing, it is likely the organization has different feelings. Tim Twentyman is the reporter closer to the team than anyone else writing for the team’s official site. His view of the kicker “battle” is plain as day in a tweet today:
Akers made a 63-yard FG in a special teams team drill today. Ties his NFL record. There's your kicker folks. Been telling you for months.
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) August 19, 2013
It echoes my feelings on the matter as well. Rugland is a great story and perhaps he gets the chance to be a team’s regular kicker one day. He has done well considering he came to rookie minicamp without knowing how to put on his pads. However, it just isn’t realistic to expect him to make up the ground needed to beat out a veteran like Akers.
I can understand why some fans would be nervous with Akers considering he is coming off the worst season of his career. However, prior to last year Akers had exceeded his career field goal percentage for four straight years. Unless you believe his down year in 2012 was because he simply lost it and is too old to return to form, Akers’ reputation for consistency still holds.
The surface reason for Akers’ poor season a year ago was a sports hernia and complications following surgery. That looks to be the extent of the issues considering what Akers has shown in camp. That being the case, there probably wasn’t anything Rugland could have done to win the job.