Jeff Reed is lousy at kickoffs. That is a fact. He averaged 59.8 yds per kick (the opponent’s 10 yard line) last season which was good enough to be ranked 41st in the league. 41st! There are only 32 teams in the NFL, so a whooping 9 backup kickers were better at kickoffs than Reed. Let’s also keep in mind that 59.8 is the average which implies he didn’t even make it to the 10 yard line half of the time. This stat line atrocity is compounded by the unquantifiable observation that Reed’s unwillingness to make a tackle (or even step in the general vicinity of the returning team) essentially makes it a 10 v 11 every time he touches the field. Disadvantage, us. There were a lot of problems on special teams last year, but Jeff Reed on kickoffs was one of the more glaring.
Of course, this is not say he is anything less than a fair field goal kicker (unless you wanna talk about the Bears game last season, in which case, you’d be fully justified in doing so). He was in the top 10 last season with a field goal percentage of 87% despite playing half his games at Heinz Field which is a notoriously difficult stadium to kick in. There is really no reason to argue against him kicking field goals, but there is also no excuse for giving the opponent optimal field position every time we kickoff. Clearly, something has to be done.
Option 1: Dump Reed and find a new kicker who will most likely be around par on kickoffs and field goals.
Option 2: Use up another roster spot to sign a kickoff specialist and leave Skippy to do what Skippy does best: public urination and field goals.
Option 3: Look in-house for a versatile player that can take on the responsibility of kickoffs while handling their own position. Anyone who saw James Harrison attempt to moonlight as long snapper might cringe at the prospect, but in the case of kickers, it’s not unheard of. Back in the early days of professional football, it was actually normal for the kicker to be the most athletic player on the team. It wasn’t until later that kicker became a specialized role.
All things considered, option 3 sounds like a winner. Reed gets to keep making field goals, and we don’t lose an unnecessary roster spot. But, then the question becomes: who? Who in our organization is so dynamic and powerful yet graceful and talented enough to play both kicker and their own position? Enter the man, the myth, the legend – Daniel Sepulveda.
During last Friday’s practice, Sepulveda was given a chance and posted some respectable kicks. According to the official Steelers Facebook page, he put one 2 yards into the endzone and a “mis-hit” 8 yards in. I don’t know what constitutes a “mis-hit” (out of bounds, perhaps?) but I will take 8 yards in all day. The kicker (pun intended) of this whole situation is that Sepulveda is actually a major threat on special teams. He walked onto his college team at Baylor as linebacker, and Youtube has proof that he can hit like one. With his tenacity, determination and size, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sepulveda down field making tackles himself. All of a sudden, we’re playing 11v11 again, and our 11 is a linebacker. ‘Bout time.
This is a truly inspired yet logical decision by the coaching staff. Why bring in another kicker when Sepulveda can handle punting and kickoffs? Between this potential change at kicker, our drafts and other off season acquisitions, special teams is starting to look a bit brighter. I know I’m excited.