Will the Chargers’ kicking game improve?
By Matt Pagels
The Chargers’ kicking game let the team down in a big way last year. Will things change in 2018?
Remember how bad the Chargers were at kicking field goals last season? Ohhh I ‘member.
It cost the Bolts the playoffs. It really did. The team started 0-4, but they had a chance to win their first two games if it weren’t for special teams. If they won even one of those games, they would have made the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
Overall, the Chargers finished dead last in field-goal percentage (66.7). They also connected on just 37-of-42 extra points, the third-worst mark in the league. Four players attempted at least one field goal last season, including Younghoe Koo, Nick Novak, Travis Coons and Nick Rose; none of them are on this year’s 90-man roster.
The Chargers are starting fresh. They signed former Buccaneer Roberto Aguayo to a reserve/future contract and gave former Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis a two-year, $4.45 million deal.
Aguayo, a former second-round pick who was deadly accurate for the Florida State Seminoles, flamed out in Tampa. He hit just 71 percent of field goals his rookie year and failed to make the team last season. He was picked up by the Chicago Bears before being signed to Carolina’s practice squad, but he never saw the field in 2017.
Aguayo is only 24 years old. He needed a new start, and sometimes that really does help. See Patrick Robinson, Casey Hayward, Chris McCain and Korey Toomer, who all had (or are still having) good seasons with the Chargers.
But the favorite to win the starting job is Sturgis–and that makes me feel a bit more relaxed. Sturgis, 28, has gotten progressively better at kicking field goals since starting his career with the Dolphins in 2014. After two solid years with Miami, Sturgis became the Eagles’ starting kicker. He made over 80 percent of his field goals (and 95 percent of extra points) in both of his first two seasons in Philly, and he connected on all three attempts (one game) last year before landing on injured reserve with a hip injury.
Rookie Jake Elliott took over and never looked back, which is why Sturgis was not re-signed. It’s a good thing that happened, because Sturgis might still be an Eagle if he never got hurt. But it gave the Chargers an opportunity to sign a proven kicker, and general manager Tom Telesco didn’t hesitate to get him.
It’s funny, because the Chargers have been extremely unlucky when it comes to kickers. They’ve also made some questionable decisions, like rolling the dice with a YouTube sensation (Koo) despite having a decent kicker (Josh Lambo) already on the roster. Yeah, Lambo didn’t kill it with the Chargers like he did with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I didn’t see any reason to cut him, especially after he looked good in preseason/wasn’t outperformed by anyone else. It was definitely a surprise, and it stinks that it hurt the team.
Hopefully, Sturgis (or even Aguayo) will help turn the kicking unit around. With a roster as talented as this, you don’t want to waste it.