The Jets signed claimed kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers late last season and he kicked for them in the season finale. He remains under contract for 2021 and looks set to compete for the job in training camp. Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses.
The 24-year old is listed at 6’1” and 190 pounds and was undrafted out of Illinois in 2019. Despite only being in the NFL for two seasons, he’s been on seven different teams, making 22 of 28 field goals.
McLaughlin was originally a walk-on at Illinois and redshirted his first season, then didn’t play as a redshirt freshman. Over the next two seasons, he became their full-time kicker and made 24 of 34 field goals.
In his senior year, McLaughlin broke out by making a career-best 80 percent of his field goal attempts and earned all-Big Ten first team honors and the Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year award.
McLaughlin was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Buffalo Bills, but they released him in final cuts, despite the fact he made all three of his field goal attempts in preseason.
After a brief stint on Minnesota’s practice squad, McLaughlin was signed by the Chargers as an injury replacement for Michael Badgely. In his first three games, made nine of 11 kicks and then in his fourth game, his extra point with 8:04 to go proved to be the winning score in a one-point win over the Bears. However, he also missed a 42-yard field goal in that game and was released.
A few weeks later, he was picked up as an injury replacement by the 49ers and made an immediate impact when his clutch kick as time expired sent his first game against Seattle into overtime, only for him to then shank a potential game-winner in the eventual 27-24 loss. He was perfect over the next two games but Robbie Gould was ready to return so McLaughlin was released.
The Colts, with their kicker Adam Vinatieri also injured, claimed McLaughlin off waivers and he played the last four games, making 16 of 17 kicks. He signed an extension with the Colts at the end of the season, only to then get released in final cuts after training camp in 2020.
Following another short stint on the Vikings’ practice squad, McLaughlin got the chance to kick as an injury replacement for the fourth time in his career when the Jaguars poached him to replace the injured Josh Lambo. He made four out of five field goals with them over three games, but missed one game on Covid-19 reserve and was then waived when Lambo returned.
The Jets claimed McLaughlin off waivers but he didn’t see action until the season finale as both Sergio Castillo and Sam Ficken got opportunities ahead of him. In that final game, he only got a chance to kick two extra points. However, he heads into 2021 with an opportunity to win the role.
Now let’s break down McLaughlin in more detail, divided into categories:
Ideally, you want to see a kicker making at least 80 percent of his field goal attempts and McLaughlin has just barely achieved that at the NFL level, provided you take into account preseason kicks.
In college, he didn’t achieve that 80 percent benchmark until his senior year, pushing his overall accuracy in college to 75 percent.
All five of his six misses at the NFL level in his rookie season were all from between 40 and 49 yards.
McLaughlin has been extremely reliable on extra points over the course of his career. He made all 79 of his extra point attempts in college and has made 31 of 32 at the NFL level.
The one miss he had was especially costly, though, because the Jaguars ending up losing that game in overtime.
McLaughlin has made four of his five field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards in NFL regular season action and also nailed his only preseason attempt from beyond 50.
In college, he set school records by making five career field goals from beyond 50 yards and by making a field goal of 50 yards or more in three consecutive games.
His longest career field goal at any level was 54 yards in college, but he was capable of hitting from 70 coming out of high school. Clearly he has a strong enough leg to make kicks from well beyond 50 yards.
McLaughlin’s only miss from beyond 50 at the NFL level (and his only missed field goal in 2020) was this 62-yarder as time expired against Minnesota that fell well short. Had he made this kick, the Jets would have been more likely to end up with the first overall pick.
At the NFL level, Lambo hasn’t kicked very often in cold weather, although most of his experience has been outside. His one game with the Jets was, in fact, the only game where he’s kicked at less than 40 degrees.
However, having attended college in Illinois, he should be no stranger to windy conditions. He even kicked a few times at Soldier Field.
As noted, McLaughlin’s first game with the 49ers was a rollercoaster ride. Initially, the undrafted rookie showed ice water in his veins with this 47-yarder to send the game to overtime.
However, he had a chance to win it in overtime and choked badly, hooking his kick well wide.
He did have the game winning extra point while with the Chargers, but that was hardly a clutch situation and while he missed the potential 62-yard game-winner with Jacksonville, that has to be considered a low percentage kick.
In college, he made a few clutch kicks, including one where he was under heavy pressure from the field goal rush.
McLaughlin had a 67 percent touchback rate in college and eight touchbacks in nine kickoffs in his rookie preseason campaign with the Bills, but wasn’t asked to kick off in Jacksonville, Indianapolis or San Francisco.
He did kick off 17 times with the Chargers, but had only seven touchbacks. Otherwise, he’s only kicked off four times in regular season action, with zero touchbacks.
McLaughlin has attempted a few onside kicks in his college career but none have been successfully recovered.
Although he is listed at 6’1”, McLaughlin actually measured less than six feet at his pro day. He opted not to do a full workout, but NFL Draft Scout estimates his 40 time to be 4.97. He’s obviously not considered much of an athlete and hasn’t been asked to run any fakes.
McLaughlin hasn’t contributed much in kick coverage, with no tackles in his college or pro career, although he was in on this one.
He doesn’t offer much as a last line of defense, allowing Javon Leake to beat him in the open field here for a long touchdown.
McLaughlin is capable of punting, impressing some Bills beat writers with his leg during his first training camp. When he was with the Chargers, he was initially listed as the emergency punter although he didn’t ultimately get used in that capacity.
His only two punts at Illinois both came as the Fighting Illini lined up as if to attempt a long field goal and McLaughlin took the snap and punted instead. One went into the end zone, but this one was downed at the two.
He was a team captain and earned all-Big 10 academic honors while he was at Illinois. In college, he listed his favorite athlete as ex-Jets punter Steve Weatherford.
McLaughlin will hope to be able to settle down and get a fair shot at winning a role instead of just being a temporary replacement. Then again, he got such an opportunity in camp this year and lost out to Rodrigo Blankenship.
He will head to camp along with Ficken, who signed a futures deal after the season but has to be considered a long-shot to win the role after an underwhelming 2020 season. You can also expect the Jets to bring in some more competition, either via free agency or the draft.