The NFL Combine is upon us over the course of this week. Which means the future of the NFL will be in Indianapolis getting tested, probed and evaluated by the NFL brass. This also means the top kickers and punters will be in attendance.
To get a better assessment of this years kicking class, I interviewed Filip Filipovic (Thekickingcoach.com), a kicking coach and 6-year NFL veteran in the Mid-West.
“Its defiantly a down year for kickers and punters. No one guy stands out. There are a few that have some of the tools but not all the tools,” Filip commented. Fillip also coaches a number of current college kickers and draft eligible players, which include standout senior punter Zoltan Melsko, who will punt at the combine. “Zoltan may get drafted in the later rounds, he has the right tools, a prototypical punter (6’-5”) and athletic,” said Filipovic.
Filipovic continued, “There a fair number of teams this year in transition, Craig Hentrich retired, the Packers are searching, there are opportunities out there this year.”
A few of he attendees for this years NFL combine are: Brett Swenson (Michigan State), Aaron Petrry (Ohio State), Zoltan Melsko (Michigan) and Lee Tiffin (Alabama).
On another note, Filip and I discussed how poorly the NFL kickers performed this year, and how kickers don’t get to much help from their special teams coach. Filip said, “There is a lack of knowledge… out of the 32 Special Teams coaches, six of them may know about kicking technique. Two or three teams carry a kicking consultant or coach.” That’s less than half of the NFL teams.
Filip believes it’s hard for a special teams coach to replace a veteran punter or kicker, “the veterans usually dictate the tempo of practice and coaches don’t have to worry about their technique.”
I have to relate this to the Chargers, as a San Diego native, I don’t think Nate Kaeding went looking for special teams coach, Steve Crosby, on advice after his second miss in the Chargers playoff loss to the New York Jets. It makes me think what these coaches are looking for when they are evaluating kickers at the combine this year. I suppose they are drawing their next offensive play in their notebook and pretending to be interested.
According to Filip, the format of the NFL combine has not changed in over 15 years. Kickers get to kick 15 field goals, 11 kickoffs and punters get about 15 punts. Kickers and punters also have to run the 40-yard dash, bench press and other tests. Filip mentioned, “the bench press and 40 yard dash tests are not necessary, I believe specialists should get a couple of days to perform. They should kick one-day, get a rest day, and then come out and kick again. By allowing the player to kick twice you allow them to get into their rhythm and evaluate their true potential.”
I agree with this. In addition, I believe you want to evaluate their mental side of the game as well. How does a kicker react to having a bad-kicking day? How will he perform if he misses a kick with a head coach standing next to him? I would make the kickers compete with each other multiple times and see who comes out on top.
I have concluded, the majority of professional coaches don’t know anything about kicking, combined with archaic testing protocols. We can’t forget to mention all the talent that did not get invited to the combine. What does tell you about the NFL and its kicking game? Maybe the performance of kickers in this past year’s NFL season is a sign of things to come for kickers and punters.