Ryan Succop may be over the hump on his recent slump in training camp, but the Buccaneers need to be wary of more kicking struggles.
You never want to overreact to training camp struggles, especially not with a player like Ryan Succop, who was so instrumental in the Super Bowl run by the Buccaneers in 2020, but kicking is its own game.
Succop had a great practice today, which will hopefully spark an uptick in production leading up to the start of the regular season, but the Bucs need to remain vigilant. Kicking is a finicky position in the NFL, after all.
It feels like ever since the NFL moved the PAT back, kicker has become an extremely temperamental position. You already had to possess a unique mental formula to succeed in the NFL, but making the “free” point kicks much harder has impacted kickers in a unique way.
Some kickers seem like they can’t miss. You have guys setting records constantly for the furthest field goal made or longest streak without a miss, but that is just the top of the mountain. The valley is a much harder place to live.
Tampa fans know all about these valleys in kicking careers. It feels like almost every kicker in the past few years has only been on cold stretches during their time in Tampa. From Matt Gay to Roberto Aguayo and several other less than satisfactory options in the middle, the kicking game was a huge reason why the Bucs struggled so much in recent years.
Fortunately, the Buccaneers found a perfect fit in Ryan Succop when they needed it most.
Succop is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and was extremely instrumental in keeping points on the board even when the offense was off. The days of losing games after three missed kicks were gone, and it is impossible to underscore Succop’s role in bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Tampa.
The Bucs had no choice but to extend Succop after such a great season, but they are starting to see some of the dangers of a move like this during the early weeks of camp.
Succop has struggled. There’s no other way to put it. For a player that was defined by his consistency last season, Succop hasn’t looked like himself during the early weeks of camp. This doesn’t need to lead to an immediate change, but there is some cause for concern.
Kickers can sink into slumps faster than any other player. Tom Brady throws a ball straight into the ground from time to time that isn’t on purpose. Sometimes DBs mess up the coverage and let off a big play. The difference between these positions and kickers is that the issue doesn’t compound upon itself.
The quarterback can usually reign himself back in after a boneheaded throw or a missed opportunity, but kicking slumps are much harder to snap. Look at the stats for almost any kicker; if the highs are high, there are likely to be some pretty dramatic lows.
Greg Zuerlein made 92.9% of his field goals in 2013. He only succeeded on 91.7% of his extra-point attempts in 2020. Stephen Gostkowski was one of the best kickers of the past decade, with a career average of 87.4% on field goals before dropping to 69.2% in 2020. Age may be a factor here, but Succop is right between these two age-wise.
The drop-off comes quick. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and this rings especially true with kickers.
There is still plenty of time for Succop to get control of his leg, but it still feels like he has put together more bad practices than good ones recently, and the staff needs to do everything in their power to make sure this doesn’t turn into a legitimate slump.
The Bucs would be wise to keep the kicking competition as an ongoing process during camp to ensure the best kicker emerges with the starting job, and after last season, we all have to hope that it is the 2020 version of Ryan Succop that emerges with the job.
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