GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sunday may be the last time either Jay Feely or Chandler Catanzaro don an Arizona Cardinals jersey. Of course, that depends on when head coach Bruce Arians wants to delay the inevitable.
He has until Saturday to narrow the roster to 53 and could give both kickers another chance to prove their value in the preseason finale on Thursday in San Diego. Feely and Catanzaro will split the kicking duties Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium against Cincinnati on national television, with Feely kicking in the first half and Catanzaro in the second.
“I think you always have competition, whether you have somebody here or not,” said Feely, a 13-year veteran. “You’re always looking around the whole NFL. You’re not just competing against [another kicker] in the locker room, and I’m not just competing for this job. It’s just the reality of kicking in the NFL.
“I’ve been around long enough to understand that. You have to get better every day. You have to show that you can continue to do the job.”
When the kicking competition commenced this spring, Arians made his desires clear: He wanted a kicker whose kickoffs are high and deep, and who can make their field goals. At 38, Feely’s leg isn’t what it used to be, especially compared to 23-year-old rookie Chandler Catanzaro.
“As you get older, you’re not going to kick the ball as far, it’s a reality,” Feely said.
To stay competitive, Feely changed his approach to kickoffs, starting 13 yards behind the ball. The longer approach gave him more momentum, in theory leading to longer kicks. Minnesota returned all five of Feely’s kicks last weekend, more of an example of the Vikings’ coaches wanting to evaluate kick returners than how deep Feely’s boots were. However, none of his five kicks were in the air for at least four seconds, according to Pro Football Focus.
The best of his five kickoffs in Minnesota had a hang time of 3.92 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. His other four were 3.71 seconds, 3.84, 3.62 and 3.67 seconds. In Arizona’s first preseason game, Catanzaro’s highest hang time was 4.31 seconds, according to PFF.
While changing his approach was a move to help Feely earn the job now, he had the long term in mind, he said. This week, Feely called his new approach a “progression,” and admitted it’ll take some time for him to feel comfortable with it and trust his new technique, even if it didn’t yield the results he wanted.
If Feely, who’s scheduled to make $1.02 million this year, ends up getting cut, he’ll likely find another home quickly. Denver may be an option after its kicker, Matt Prater, was suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse program.
Sunday was originally expected to be Catanzaro’s game to kick. At the onset of training camp, Arians said the two kickers would alternate games, but that would’ve left Catanzaro only kicking indoors and Feely only kicking outdoors. Splitting Sunday gives Feely an opportunity to kick indoors and for each to face off head-to-head.
Feely said he’s grateful for Sunday’s opportunity, but the comparisons need to go beyond one game.
“Sure you want to be compared, but I think you’re going to compare not just what you do on a specific game day,” Feely said, “you’re going to compare everything you’ve done in practice as well as your career.”