Sep 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers kicker Josh Lambo (2) looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, things seemed to be going in the right direction for Nick Novak, and the Chargers kicking game. The Chargers awarded Novak a nice contract that appeared to lock him up for the next four seasons. After bouncing around to just about every team in the league (including being cut & re-signed by the Chargers) the undrafted free agent seemed to have found a home in his native city of San Diego. He replaced 3rd round draft pick, and long time kicker, Nate Kaeding. Kaeding was phenomenal during the regular season, but repeatedly hung the team out to dry when the game was on the line… especially in the playoffs. Nick Novak broke that curse, and was pretty clutch when it came to game-winning kicks. He seemed to be sitting pretty as “the leg” for Chargers for the foreseeable future.
Then, a strange thing happened.
The Chargers brought in former MLS soccer goalie, and field goal kicker for Texas A&M, Josh Lambo. After the contract Novak had recently signed, most fans paid little attention to the addition, and thought Lambo was just a camp leg. The thought that Lambo could replace “Nick the Kick” seemed unlikely, to say the least. The coaching staff had always reiterated that they were going to “put the best 53 out there”, and continue to rotate in whatever players that they thought could “help the team win”. However, not many people saw the Chargers coaching staff & front office cutting ties with Novak in favor of an unproven rookie. But, that is exactly what ended up happening.
Novak’s biggest weakness was his leg strength. Many a fan would cringe every time Novak kicked the ball right to the returner, allowing the opponent to do serious damage to a special teams unit that was so bad it would make the Pope weep. It seemed like every time we kicked the ball off, the other team would start just short of midfield. Putting the ball out of the back of the endzone was unheard of, and not even an option, unless it took a lucky bounce. Novak had been working on his leg strength in the offseason, but a fatal mistake was all it took to open the door for Lambo to move in.
Novak missed an easy PAT attempt in a preseason game against Arizona, and stubbed his toe in the process, literally. Josh Lambo was allowed to come into the game, and put on a kicking clinic that turned the heads of the Chargers coaching staff. He had leg strength, put kicks out the back, and made 3 kicks from varying distances, including a game winning kick as time expired. This was the undoing of Nick Novak as the Charger’s kicker. Novak played the following preseason game, and nailed a field goal, as he usually does. He over-celebrated this kick, as if he were in the Super Bowl, but it was not enough to convince the coaches that he was the better kicker. Soon after, the Chargers made final cuts. Lambo was chosen over Novak, shocking just about everybody.
The Chargers decided to go with Lambo’s youth, leg strength, and lighter contract. After a heartfelt thank you note to the Charger fan base, Nick was off to find yet another team to call home. It didn’t take long, as Novak has now been signed by the Houston Texans, who just released Randy Bullock after missing some PAT’s. We all knew that he would be signed to a team quickly, and Houston got a heck of a player.
But, what exactly did the Chargers let go, in favor of Lambo? I am actually a believer that the Chargers didn’t lose too much by making a change at the kicking position. They have gained a little here, and lost a little there, perhaps. But, so far… so good. We have yet to see him perform a kick in the regular season, with the game on the line, which is something that Novak was great at. But, after Lambo’s preseason performance, we know that he is capable of pulling it off. He is no stranger to high pressure kicks, as he kicked the game-winner back in 2013 with four seconds on the clock in a huge win over Ole Miss. He has been there, but we still need to see him do it in an NFL game.
Last week was not a great game for Lambo, as he was never put in a position to actually kick a field goal. Interestingly enough, he only had two of his 5 kickoffs go for touchbacks in week 2. this isn’t great, considering that he won the starting job based on having the leg strength to do this. On the other hand, Lambo is currently 4 of 5 on field goals this season, and The Chargers will need him to be accurate in close games.
The offensive line is as banged up as it gets, so touchdowns may be scarce for the time being. The importance of walking away with at least SOME points on offensive drives may be the difference between playing in January, and not. The Chargers might need to lean on his leg more than they would like, and it is important that Lambo delivers after replacing a player who set team records, and consistently won the Chargers games in clutch situations.
Hopefully, Lambo can make some more field goals this week, if called upon. We also need him to keep putting the ball out of the back of the endzone today, and for the rest of the season.
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence,