Centennial, Colo.—Denver Broncos kicker Connor Barth is in the midst of one of the most competitive position battles taking place at training camp this year. Barth and second-year kicker Brandon McManus are fighting it out for the placekicker position, a job Barth held for the last five games of the Broncos 2014 season, missing just 1-of-16 attempts.
McManus, on the other hand, missed 4-of-14 attempts last season, prior to being replaced by Barth. However, while Barth may have been the better player last season, he knows he’s still got to win the job in training camp.
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“We’re pushing each other and that’s what it’s about,” Barth said Tuesday. “He’s a great kicker. We’re battling and it is making us better every day. That’s what it’s about. It’s good.”
By all accounts, it’s Barth’s job to lose. He’s improved his distance on kicks and kickoffs since last season. Barth says much of that has to do with being able to spend an entire offseason in the same city, something he hasn’t done since 2012.
“Last year I was still coming off the injury, and to come back in fully health is awesome,” Barth said, “I kind of see the first week as kind of getting your swing back in. I’m hitting the ball really well. I hit the ball really well today. Want you want to do, I kind of try to build, build and build as the preseason goes on. When I’m hitting the last preseason game, I’m at my top.”
Unfortunately, Barth isn’t without his weaknesses. Last season, after realizing Barth lacked the power to secure touchbacks on kickoffs consistently, the team chose to re-sign McManus, and his powerful leg, as a kickoff specialist.
Special teams’ coordinator Joe DeCamillis says he doesn’t want to do that again this year. So, Barth will either have to strengthen his leg, or risk losing his job. Barth said he put most of his offseason work into doing the former.
“All I did all offseason was work with my kicking coach up in Charlotte, Dan Orner, and he works with a bunch of guys kicking off in the league. It’s showing,” Barth said, “We kicked off the 30 today, and I hit one out of the back from the 30, and the rest off of the 35. That’s what I’m trying to show.”
Barth will have plenty of time to show off his new leg during the rest of training camp. However, the kicking competition, and Barth’s future in Denver, may be decided as soon as August 14th, when the Broncos head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in the first game of their preseason schedule
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