Controversy Brewing Again in Jacksonville

The Jaguars appear to be heading towards yet another type of controversy on their roster, albeit this one is not as sexy or as ill-willed as the former quarterback controversy, that ended nine days prior to the season opener, when the Jaguars released former starter Byron Leftwich, to go with then career backup David Garrard.

This particular controversy has to do with the never thought of, but very important position of kicker.

A significant amount of panic ensued among Jaguars fans when kicker Josh Scobee hurt his leg in warm-ups prior to the season opener against Tennessee. The Jaguars were left with no ability to kick the football from anywhere outside of 25 yards, and were forced to take chances in their red-zone play calling, which ultimately was a contributing factor in their season opening 13-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Scobee was then expected to miss anywhere between 3-8 weeks.

"The official injury report will come out later in the week. We know today that we're going to need to bring in some kickers. We'll work some guys out later this afternoon. Obviously Josh (Scobee) strained his quad last week in pregame warm-ups and so we'll bring in some guys, make sure we can handle that, get that job handled."--Jack Del Rio

The Jaguars then signed 43-year old veteran John Carney, to serve as a band-aid while Scobee was down. Carney had spent the past six seasons of his 18-year career with the New Orleans Saints, before they cut him loose in favor of a guy with a bigger leg, in Olindo Mare. Carney was expected to be nothing more than a stop-gap type of player for the Jaguars, someone to hit the easy field goals, while knowing that they will sacrifice some distance on kickoffs. Through two games, the Jaguars front office, as well as their fans have been pleasantly surprised at what Carney has brought to the team. Carney has hit all five of his field goal attempts, all three of his extra points, and has four touchbacks, which ranks him tied for fifth in the NFL, despite playing one fewer game.

Jaguars fans shouldn't be too surprised at Carney's early success. Carney finished last season hitting on 92% of field goals (23/25), with a long of 51 yards. In Carney's last 10 seasons, he has hit a long field goal of at least 48 yards every season, with a handful of kicks over 50 yards, including a couple from longer than 53. Despite being the NFL's second-oldest player at 43 years of age, just one year younger than his head coach, Carney appears to be getting better with age. Head coach Jack Del Rio gushed over Carney after last Sunday's victory at Denver--

"We brought John Carney in here a couple of weeks ago out of necessity, and we're not only getting field goals, which we knew he would be terrific in that, but we're getting some touchbacks, so he's done a nice job. We're not counting on touchbacks with John going in there, but he did have a couple more yesterday. So he's done a real nice job kicking the ball and that's been an added benefit or added plus to have John actually kicking off beyond what we expected or really were counting on and helping us with field position. I think when you look at the game yesterday, our special teams showed up and made a difference."

Sooner, rather than later, Josh Scobee is going to be healthy again, and the Jaguars will have a decision to make. Very few teams keep two kickers on their roster, and that may or may not be an option for the Jaguars. Scobee is only in his fourth season, and he's a former fifth-round pick of the team, and the present and future of the position for the Jaguars. Through Scobee's first three years, he has displayed one the biggest legs in the league, but has struggled with consistency. Scobee has hit just 78.7% of his field goals, and has hit on only 72% of kicks in close games (less than seven points).

So what should the Jaguars do? If they release either Carney or Scobee, it is more than likely that whichever guy it is will be picked up almost immediately by some other team. If they cut Carney, they are left with a kicker who missed time due to injury, that was inconsistent before his injury. If Carney is the guy they choose to keep, Scobee could land elsewhere and get his career back on track and be a thorn in the Jaguars side for years to come.

We at JagNation believe that the Jaguars should keep both Carney and Scobee for the rest of the season. Scobee can be the kickoff specialist when he is healthy, and Carney can kick the field goals. If Carney struggles later in the year, the Jaguars can cut him and not be responsible for his entire year's salary, being that he wasn't on the roster for the first week. The Jaguars play too many close games to take chances with the kicking position. They have a guy in John Carney, who is knocking everything through the uprights, and they can't afford to risk that. I understand that many will make the argument that two kickers takes away a roster spot from someone who can help during a game, and that's a legitimate point, but is having a guy like Richard Angulo or Tutan Reyes on the roster more important than having a consistent kicker? I think not.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.

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