There are experienced placekickers still searching for employment if the Arizona Cardinals Zane Gonzalez fails to impress
The Arizona Cardinals have had some rotten luck with placekickers over the past few years. Phil Dawson, signed to a free-agent deal back in 2017, failed to live up to expectations. Chandler Catanzaro excelled for Arizona during his first two pro campaigns (2014-15), but struggled mightily in year number three.
Hoping to put an end to the dilemma, the club’s front office brought in yet another kicker late in 2018. Zane Gonzalez, a seventh-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in ’17, was added to the Cards practice squad this past November. Can the youngster be the answer at the placekicking position that the franchise so desperately desires?
Gonzalez certainly made a good first impression with the Cardinals. A hip injury suffered by Dawson during the 11th week of last season got the former Arizona State University product elevated to the active roster. Gonzalez proceeded to make the most of his opportunity.
In five regular-season appearances in ’18, Gonzalez made good on seven of nine field-goal attempts and five of six extra points. Those numbers were a vast improvement over what the former Sun Devil did with the Browns during the first two games of the campaign. Gonzalez’s five botched kicks directly contributed to an opening-day loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a week-two defeat to the New Orleans Saints.
Which Gonzalez will surface for Arizona this coming fall? Will they get the late-season player who kicked with incredible confidence? Or will they be getting the frazzled kicker who Cleveland released after two bad outings last year?
There are free agents that are still searching for employment who’d love to be handed Gonzalez’s gig in the desert. The best of the bunch is 44-year old Matt Bryant, who has had a remarkable career. The long-time Atlanta Falcon was particularly magnificent in ’18, hitting on 20 of 21 field-goal tries and 33 of 35 PATs.
Others include former Cody Parkey, who was kicking well last season before a 43-yard field-goal miss cost the Chicago Bears a playoff victory. Kai Forbath is a 31-year old who has been employed by four different NFL organizations. Mike Nugent has been in the league since 2005, and owns an 81.4% field-goal percentage on 311 career attempts.
For now at least, it’s Gonzalez’s job to lose. That is subject to change if Cards’ special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers sees something he doesn’t like during training camp. There are several veteran placekickers who are more than willing to step in for Gonzalez if he fails.