Saints kicker battle going down to wire

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints still haven't decided on their kicker, according to coach Sean Payton, who said both Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke will get work in Thursday's preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

Payton stressed, however, that the fact the battle is still ongoing shouldn't be taken as a sign of any lack of confidence in the candidates.

When asked if New Orleans might look at kickers being released elsewhere, Payton said, "I think we feel pretty good about the two we have here."

"I wouldn't confuse the fact that we haven't made a decision with these two with the idea that we're unhappy," Payton said. "I think we're really making sure we're trying to make the right decision, so I don't know if we are looking at outside kickers.

"I think a team or two is looking to see what we do."

There has been no clear leader based on the preseason games. The only miss so far has been an extra point attempt by Graham in the preseason opener, when the league was experimenting with 33-yard extra points.

Graham is 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts, with a long of 39 yards this past Saturday night at Indianapolis. Dimke is 2-for-2 on field goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards this past Saturday.

However, both kickers have missed some field goal attempts during practice. I don't have an official tally, so I can't accurately estimate their percentages. I believe that Graham has missed more than Dimke. But neither one has been clearly dominant.

"It's one of the ones we probably discuss every time that we're discussing personnel. It's a good thing, but both of them have done well in practice," said Payton, who didn't directly answer when asked if it could come down to a missed kick on Thursday.

"Look, we have every kick charted, so we're able to go up there and pull out, ‘What's the efficiency, what's the distance, what's the get off?' and then weigh all of those things and make a decision," Payton said.

Heading into camp, I felt like it was Graham's job to lose as long as he proved to be steady enough. Instead, the veteran has left the door open with that extra-point miss and a few misses in practice. But he's been solid lately, so I've continued to pick Graham on my projected 53-man roster.

My interest was piqued when I saw that the Arizona Cardinals released veteran Jay Feely on Monday – although Feely obviously wouldn't have been cut if he hadn't shown signs of inconsistency himself.

I just feel like the Saints would probably prefer a steady veteran in the mold of former kickers John Kasay and John Carney if they can find one. They don't need to worry about leg strength on kickoffs since punter Thomas Morstead handles those duties.