Seahawks' Kickers Prepare For Round Two

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Seahawks' Kickers Prepare For Round Two
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

When the Seahawks lost Josh Brown to the Rams last year, it left a rather large hole at the kicker position.

There were precious few replacement options available but they signed veteran Olindo Mare to a two-year deal and drafted Georgia's Brandon Coutu.

A training camp competition ensued, with both fighting for the starting role.

During the 2008 preseason, there was little to split the pair. Mare impressed with the distance of his kick offs—averaging 69.7 yards and adding seven touchbacks in just 14 attempts.

Coutu trailed in this sector, he didn't get any touchbacks in his 10 attempts but still averaged a respectable 66.5 yards.

The former Bulldog rookie fared better in field goal attempts. He scored a perfect seven-from-seven with a long of 48 yards. Mare mustered four-from-five with a long of 34.

When the decision had to be made, the veteran got the call, the extra experience and the impressive length of his kick offs sealing the starting gig.

He didn't waste the opportunity.

It wasn't until Week Six that Mare missed his first kick. In total, he finished with a solid 89% completion rate, scoring 24-from-27 kicks.

The highlight of the veteran's season was surely his game-winning kick against the Rams in Week 15 to secure a 23-20 road win.

Mare hit 22 touchbacks (joint second in the NFL) and averaged 66.5 yards on kick offs, with only a 25.6 return average.

None of his kicks were taken back for six points.

Such a stat sheet would usually secure a starting role indefinitely. However, approaching training camp this year the competition has once again been opened up.

Coutu remained on the roster throughout 2008, despite never attempting a kick. It was an indication of just how highly the Seahawks rated the 24-year-old.

They didn't want to risk losing him through waivers by putting him on the practise squad, whilst Coutu also offered insurance with Mare coming off hip surgery prior to joining the Seahawks.

"Every step of the way, it made sense."
- GM Tim Ruskell

So what can we expect from Mare vs Coutu—round two?

Probably another very even contest. If so, we'll have to look for potential factors that will help the team make their decision.

Mare will be 36 on June 6. Age isn't too much of an issue for a kicker in terms of performance, but in a starting battle it could be a difference maker.

If the two remain evenly matched through camp, eventually Coutu might have the advantage as a younger model with less wear on the tyres.

As one of only two kickers drafted in 2008, Coutu became the first prospect in Georgia history to average over 80% field goal accuracy.

However, despite a career long of 58 yards, he only managed five of 11 over 50 yards in his Bulldogs career.

Mare managed three of four over 50 yards in 2008, but only has a career completion rate of 46.2 from such distance.

His overall career record shows a competent 279 from 347 kicks (80.4%).

The battle will begin in training camp and likely continue into preseason. That's where we'll get the first indication of who sits in the driving seat.

Could the team keep two kickers again in 2009? It's possible.

Mare has another year left on his $3.5m contract. If they can justify keeping an inactive kicker on the roster in an injury ravaged 4-12 season, they may feel obliged to do the same again.

It would certainly be harsh to flat out cut Mare after a fairly productive 2008, whilst pinning your hopes on a relatively untested leg.

At this moment, the veteran has the upper hand but everything could change in what promises to be an interesting training camp battle.

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