Earlier in the week we at PewterReport wrote about a rocky day for Bucs’ second-year kicker Matt Gay, but he and free agent competitor Elliott Fry have both had strong camps overall, going 5-for-5 apiece on their Wednesday attempts. Following the Bucs’ practice, head coach Bruce Arians and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong weighed in on the ongoing kicking battle.
“I think it’s close, I think it’s real close,”Armstrong said about the Bucs’ kicking competition. “I think with Matt, the thing I learned is that he’s got to learn how to be consistent and that’s what we’re looking for. That’s hard to do, but that’s what wins. He’s got to learn to be consistent. You can’t make the 60-yarder and miss the 45. You’ve got to learn to be consistent [because] they all count. They only count for three, but it’s three that we need and we want.”
Arians mirrored that emphasis on consistency, arguing that trait will likely be the final difference-maker when the competition is settled, as both kickers have had strong showings in camp thus far.
“The most consistent guy,” Arians said about what will create an edge in the competition. “They both have enough leg strength, Fry kicked a 56-yarder with no problem and I don’t think we’ll try too many that are longer unless it’s the end of the half. Leg strength is no problem, so it’s just the most consistent guy and if there’s a disparity, it’s who’s the most consistent inside 35.”
Despite carrying a field goal percentage of 85.7 percent into the Bucs’ final three games, Gay converted just three of his final eight field goals, including three missed kicks against Atlanta in an eventual overtime loss in Week 17. He finished the year with a field goal conversion rate of 77.1 percent.
It will be interesting to see how the kickers are tested on Friday when the Bucs head to Raymond James Stadium for a live scrimmage, where both players will presumably be in line for multiple situational kicks, including into the wind when facing the dreaded south end zone.