ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Three kickers. One job.
Yes, that can describe both the Detroit Lions' kicking job to date and also the tryout the team will have Tuesday, when the Lions will bring in Matt Prater and Jay Feely, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, along with Connor Barth, according to the Detroit Free Press.
One of those guys will likely be the Lions’ next kicker, their third kicker this season. This has been crushing for the Lions, who have put together enough on offense and defense to not have to worry about a kicking game continuously gone awry.
And this has never really had to be an issue before for coach Jim Caldwell. He had good kickers in Indianapolis and Baltimore. Then he came to Detroit and it all unraveled. Though he wouldn’t say it has completely altered offensive play calling and decisions, consistency would help the Lions.
"Consistency makes a difference in terms of how you look at things, how you call plays," Caldwell said. "What determinations you make on what you want to do in a certain situation in areas of the field. All of those things you have to look at."
The Lions need to find a kicker they can trust -- something imperative if they want to have any modicum of success throughout the rest of the regular season and any hope of a playoff berth.
Detroit’s kicking circus has cost the Lions a game already -- anyone who says it wasn’t the biggest factor in the Lions losing to Buffalo on Sunday isn’t being honest -- and considering the majority of NFL games are decided by one possession or less, the Lions have to get it right this time.
They were wrong in keeping Nate Freese over Giorgio Tavecchio, who appeared more consistent throughout training camp. And they missed again on the signing of Alex Henery, who struggled during the preseason with Philadelphia, lost his job and couldn’t kick the ball straight in two games for Detroit.
Caldwell explained that judging a kicker is tough because they don’t see in-game action during tryouts, so the Lions are going to lean on experience and past results as they continue to hunt for a suitable replacement for Jason Hanson, who retired following the 2012 season.
Prater is the most likely option. He’s still young at 30 and made 25 of 26 field goals last season. In his career, he is 51-of-54 in the fourth quarter and overtime, including eight from 50 yards or farther. He was 10-of-10 in the fourth quarter and overtime last season. Had he not been suspended for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, he might still be with the Broncos.
Feely has the experience and the hometown-ish connection as a former Michigan kicker. Though not as efficient as Prater, he also would not carry any of the baggage Prater has. He also could be a good mentor to punter Sam Martin, who is still in his second year in the NFL. Feely is an 82.7 percent kicker in his career and had his best season -- 21-of-23 on field goal attempts -- for the Dolphins in 2007.
Barth is a career 84.2 percent kicker who has been at 82 percent or higher for all but one of his five NFL seasons. But he hasn’t kicked since 2012.
Those are the candidates. By Tuesday evening, it is pretty likely one of them will be the next guy to try and solve the Lions’ kicking woes.