ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Once more with feeling, as for the second consecutive August, Brandon McManus has been tabbed as the Denver Broncos’ kicker of choice.
A year ago, as they received the news of Matt Prater’s suspension, the Broncos shipped a conditional draft pick to the New York Giants to acquire McManus in order to make him Prater's replacement. But by late November, McManus has lost the kicking job to Connor Barth after missing three kicks in a five-game span.
But McManus has won the job again, at least for now, as Barth was released Wednesday when the Broncos added guard Evan Mathis to the roster. This time they hope McManus is now a power kicker who has the consistent accuracy to win a game or two late if the Broncos need it.
“I think he’s gotten consistent," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s what it looks like to me. I think last year that was the concern. As you look at camp and stuff, he’s been very consistent in what he’s doing. He’s been excellent kicking the ball off. It was up to him to prove he could do it. I think up to this point, he’s done that.
Barth went 15-of-16 in field-goal attempts down the stretch last season, but after releasing McManus for a week last year, the Broncos had to bring McManus back to kick off when Barth could not drive the ball deep enough to limit opposing returners.
That was the difference this time around as well. Barth had tried to work on his kickoffs in the offseason, but had a kick short on hang time in the preseason opener returned 103 yards for a touchdown by Tyler Lockett.
“Obviously, kicking off, that’s the biggest thing,” Kubiak said Wednesday when asked what tipped the scales for McManus. “If we’re going to find a way to do this with two [kickers] and not with three, then somebody’s got to have a dual role or be able to do both one way or another for us to get that done. I also think Brandon has kicked extremely well."
“It was exciting to kind of get the trust back that they lost in me last year," McManus said. “Obviously, [Barth] was on the team last year with me, so we do have a bond and a friendship with one another. It’s tough to see that, but, like I said, it was exciting for me to get that trust back and to win this job back."
McManus and Barth were in a tight competition throughout the team’s offseason program and into training camp. Each of the two also had some bouts of inconsistency along the way – special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis singled each out after one early training camp practice for some of the struggles.
Last week, however, McManus powered a 70-yard attempt over the crossbar in an 11-on-11 two-minute drill – Barth hit a 65-yarder minutes later – and McManus seemed to kick with some additional confidence as the camp days wore on.
“They trust me upstairs, but I still want to come back," McManus said. “It’s still bitter in my mouth from last year. Just trying to do the best I could. Coming out here [Wednesday], it wasn’t an easy day to kick, [went] 12-for-12 today, so it was a good day to get the load off my back and feel good about it. … Personally, some guys lose confidence. I never did in myself. I don’t know if that’s my personality or my mental strength, but I never lost confidence in myself."