There are plenty of positions that are far more interesting to talk about than kicker, but it is an important position that deserves attention. The rest of the New Orleans Saints roster is set for the most part, and the last thing the Saints want is such a complete roster to go to waste because of special teams deficiencies.
At the opening of the offseason, it looked like a forgone conclusion that veteran Shayne Graham was going to walk into the job with young gun Derek Dimke simply there for friendly competition. However, the competition has become closer than one would think, and I believe that Dimke, not the veteran Graham, should kick for the Saints.
I understand Graham’s track record. He has had a solid career kicking at a high percentage. Last season, he was very serviceable in the interim before a very forgettable performance in Seattle going 0-2 on his two attempts. Yes, the weather was inclement and the wind did no favors, but conditions will not always be ideal for kickers.
My claims, admittedly, have no basis other than what I have seen in the first two preseason game, but from the looks of it, Dimke’s leg looks stronger and the ball seems to rocket off his leg. Also, Dimke has not missed this preseason while Graham has missed a 33 yard extra point field goal already. Misses like that, especially in a dome, are absolutely unacceptable.
This year the Saints will have some outdoor games, including games against Chicago and Pittsburgh late in the year that have the chance to be snowy and inclement. With those games being in Week 13 and 15, they will surely have playoff implications, and the weather will lend itself to critical field goals having to be made in bad weather, conditions that Graham wasn’t able to handle last time he had the chance. Dimke’s younger and stronger leg may be better suited for those games and a possible road playoff game in Seattle or San Francisco.
And this wouldn’t be the first time the Saints have given way to an unproven leg. In 2008, the Saints switched to the younger Garrett Hartley and he ended up setting the record for most consecutive field goals made to begin a career. Afterwards, he ended up kicking the Saints into the Super Bowl; and in the Super Bowl he went a perfect three for three.
In no way am I saying Dimke will be perfect. Hartley certainly wasn’t at times and the Saints ended up bringing veteran John Carney in for insurance. The Saints can do the same for Dimke. Let the younger leg get a shot, and if he falters, Graham can be brought in for insurance purposes.
Despite my opinion on the situation, Graham is still probably ahead in the race, but not by much. However, if he errs again in the last two preseason games and Dimke continues to be perfect, the Saints will be hard pressed to let Dimke go.