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Saints still struggling to get it right at kicker

I don’t want to make a federal case out of Shayne Graham missing a field goal in a meaningless preseason game, but i’m concerned. Yes, I know it was really an extra point, but from 33 yards out it’s basically a field goal. That kick would have been good from 17 yards out because it wouldn’t have had a change to curve out to the left upright from that distance. Still, Graham is supposed to be automatic from 33. The thinking behind him replacing Garrett Hartley in the first place was something like: “sure, he doesn’t have quite the leg or power but he’s much more reliable inside 40”. Hartley had the leg to drill one from 55, Graham does not. So the Saints sacrificed distance for reliability close in. That conundrum is not that different from when Hartley was battling it out in camp against John Carney and John Kasay in previous camps. The the current battle of Graham vs. Derek Dimke reminds me of Hartley going up against the older kickers. You’re again having to choose between a young live leg with potential that’s a bit of an unknown quantity or a reliable veteran that really can’t be trusted outside of 45 yards in.

Many have suggested that Ryan Griffin is responsible for that miss on Friday, by the way. The hold was not perfect, but from 33 yards out it should still be a make. And even if we can excuse Graham on this one, the fact remains Dimke has arguably outperformed him in camp before the last couple of days. And even if Griffin assumes all of the blame for that miss, Graham’s kicking performance in Seattle is still fresh on my mind too. To his credit, though, the performance in Philly should be remembered as one of the greatest single kicking games in Saints history. Today Shayne Graham was on the bike at practice, perhaps suggesting Dimke will get a chance to strengthen his case with no competition.

The reality is this: I don’t think Graham is better than Carney was several years ago. And while I like Dimke’s potential, I’m not sure he’s better than Hartley, either. Saints fans love to rag on Hartley but he was a career 81.2% field goal kicker. That’s incredibly solid. The reason he was cut was he got cold in 2013 and missed 8 kicks. It happens. But that shouldn’t take away from an overall career with the Saints that was pretty good. If Dimke is able to duplicate a career like that anywhere in the NFL then he’ll be an asset for someone, but he hasn’t yet with four different teams.

So the Saints have never been rock solid under Sean Payton at kicker, and I’d argue the current competition they have going on is inferior to competitions they’ve had in the past in terms of talent and reliability. The best thing that could happen is for Dimke to win the job and develop into something special. With Graham the Saints and the fans know what they have. A guy that’s going to be pretty consistent from close. That’s best case scenario. The best case scenario with Dimke is much higher, and the floor is much lower. I don’t know which of these two players will be the Saints’ kicker in 2014, but neither makes me super confident.