Live from Indy: AZ Meets with Another Kicker

Given the recent struggles of Neil Rackers, the Cardinals kicking game may need a boost next season. The team already expressed interest in acquiring a young leg during last month's Senior Bowl. Amberly Richardson is on location at the NFL Combine and has the inside scoop on a new kicker who met with the Cardinals.

One of the first prospects the Cardinals flocked to in Indianapolis was kicker Shane Longest. Longest hails from St. Xavier University, a small school located in the Midwest with an enrollment of only 5,705 students. He's one of only four kickers at the Combine and is the lone representative from the NAIA college ranks.

Longest enjoyed an outstanding senior season, connecting on 15 of 18 field goals and 45 of 47 extra points. He displayed his long-range accuracy and leg strength by connecting on seven of eight field goals from 40-plus yards. Longest left St. Xavier as the all-time leading scorer (317 points) and holds school records for the longest field goal made (55 yards) and most field goals in a game (five).

Although he played at a smaller school, Longest is no stranger to NFL teams. Twenty-two NFL scouts have attended his games over the past two seasons. Longest was recruited by many Division I programs, including Northwestern, and received multiple offers to walk-on. However, he decided to accept a scholarship from St. Xavier.

Longest was the backbone of St Xavier's special teams, serving as the team's kicker, punter and kickoff specialist. He also proved his versatility as a multi-sport star; he was a pitcher for the baseball team and can dunk a basketball.

The Cardinals' confidence in current kicker Neil Rackers has wavered over the past two seasons. After belting a NFL record 40 field goals in 2005, his production has steadily declined. Rackers made 28 field goals in 2006 and only 20 last season.

The former Pro Bowler's lack of accuracy has been even more alarming. After hitting 95 percent of his attempts in 2005, his accuracy slipped to 76 percent in 2006 and 70 percent last season.

Rackers struggles have sparked the Cardinals' interest in multiple kickers this offseason. Last month, Cardinalinsider.com reported the team showed interest in Georgia K Brandon Coutu during Senior Bowl week. Furthermore, Arizona wasted no time meeting with Longest at the Combine.

The Cardinals appear to be sending a clear message to Rackers. If his production continues to slide, GM Rod Graves will be forced to make a change. Either way, stiff competition will be brought in during training camp.


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