Are the Cardinals Ready to Replace Rackers?

Eight-year vet Neil Rackers has earned his share of accolades. He set a single-season record by converting 40 of 42 field goal attempts in 2005. However, he is coming off his worst season since 2001, hitting only 70 percent of his kicks last year. His shaky season prompted the Cardinals to scout some kicking competition at the Senior Bowl.

Georgia kicker Brandon Coutu is considered by many to be the top kicker in this year's draft. He has been a steady force since he moved into the starting lineup in 2005. He won the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Star of the Week three times and was named first team All-SEC in 2005. He followed that performance by hitting 90.9 percent of his attempts in 2006 and scoring 103 points in 2007.

Coutu, (6'0", 188 pounds) displays a consistency that is all too uncommon at his position. He hit on more than 78 percent of his attempts in each of his final three seasons. Additionally, he connected on all 109 extra point attempts in his career.

It appears he has the ability to play on Sundays, as was evidenced by the number of NFL teams that approached him at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

"I've talked to a lot of teams. I talked to the St. Louis Rams, the Minnesota Vikings, the Atlanta Falcons, the Cleveland Browns and the Miami Dolphins. You know, just kind of getting to know everybody. You just never know what's going to happen in this business."

The Cardinals will give Coutu some serious consideration in the later rounds of the draft. Arizona has fewer needs than in years past, so it can afford to burn a day-two pick on a kicker.

Incumbent Neil Rackers has fallen out of favor with many of the Arizona faithful, as he has displayed an innate capacity for missing kicks that would have tied or won games over the last two years. Especially painful was a 32-yard miss in overtime last year against the San Francisco 49ers, a game the Cardinals lost, 37-31.

Coutu, on the other hand, has shown great reliability throughout his career. With a strong training camp, he could pry the starting job from Rackers. At worst, Coutu would push Rackers to return to his more consistent ways.

Coutu earned the Cardinas' attention with a strong showing throughout Senior Bowl week. He used his time in Mobile to improve as a player, working closely with 49ers special teams coach Al Everest.

"He's awesome; he's a really good guy," said Coutu of Everest. "I tried to stand next to him the whole time. He's been around the league for a long time. I just wanted to soak in all the wisdom he's got and learn as much as I could."

Should the Cardinals decide to bring in a young leg this offseason, Coutu will be their top choice.

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