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Scouting Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein

NFL: JAN 16 NFC Wild Card - 49ers at Cowboys Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Jets recently signed kicker Greg Zuerlein to compete with incumbent placekicker Eddy Pineiro. Today, we break down Zuerlein in detail.

The 34-year old is listed at 6’0” and 197 pounds and was a sixth round pick back in 2012. He spent the last two years with the Cowboys having been with the Rams for eight seasons. He was an all-pro in 2017.

Background

Zuerlein’s college career saw him kicking for lower level small schools but he put up some impressive numbers. After redshirting the 2006 season at Nebraska-Omaha, he kicked for them for the next three seasons, making 61 straight extra points and 19 of 26 field goals. However, he then missed the 2010 season due to injury and then the school closed their football program.

In 2011, he had a year of eligibility left so he transferred to Missouri Western where he made 23 of 24 field goals including 21 in a row and nine from beyond 50 yards. He made two 58-yard kicks to showcase an NFL leg.

Off the strength of this, the Rams made Zuerlein a sixth round pick in the 2012 draft and he instantly turned heads as he broke the all-time record for the longest field goal at Soldier Field with a 56-yarder in his third game. Then, the following week, he became the first player in NFL history to make two 58-yard kicks in the game game, with his longest from 60 setting a team mark.

He ended his rookie year with 23 field goals in 31 attempts as he made 7-of-13 from beyond 50. He hit one game winner but missed three kicks in a close loss to Miami.

He had a great year in 2013, missing just two kicks all season, but was less reliable in 2014 and 2015, although he did make a 61-yarder to set his personal best.

After a solid 2016, he earned himself a three-year extension and followed that up with his best ever season. He was a pro bowler and all-pro after leading the league in scoring with 38 successful field goals from 40 attempts, including six from seven beyond 50 yards. This included one game where he made seven of seven field goals.

Zuerlein had another good year in 2017, but missed nine field goals in 2018 which was his last with the Rams. He spent 2020 and 2021 with the Dallas Cowboys and was up and down as he missed a total of 22 kicks but did have a few game winners.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Zuerlein brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

Zuerlein isn’t particularly big, although his listed weight is 10 pounds higher than it was when he first entered the league. Online sources indicate his 40-yard dash was timed at between 4.8 and 4.9.

Accuracy

Zuerlein has usually been accurate over the years with an accuracy rate of over 82 percent on field goals. It was actually slightly higher with Dallas too. He’s only had three seasons where he was below 80 percent and this has only happened once since 2016.

Zuerlein doesn’t generally have extended stretches with constant strings of misses but has had a few games where he missed three kicks.

On extra points, Zuerlein has been a lot less accurate since the move to Dallas. He missed nine extra points in two years having only missed six in the previous eight and never more than two in a season. Prior to the rule change in 2015 where extra points were moved from the two-yard line to the 15, he had made 94 of 95.

Leg Strength

Since entering the league, Zuerlein has impressed with his strong leg, although he only made five of 14 field goals from beyond 50 yards in his two years with Dallas. He had made 33 of 55 (60 percent) with the Rams and became the first NFL player to make a 60-yarder and a 50-yarder in the same game.

He can make kicks from well beyond 55 though and even made a 60-yarder in 2021. His longest ever was this 61-yarder.

Clutch

Zuerlein has been in the league long enough that he’s had some huge clutch kicks and obviously the fact he’s survived that long means that he’s kept his key misses to a minimum. Here’s one that he just barely snuck in.

Here was a missed 44-yard field goal that cost Zuerlein’s team a win against the Seattle Seahawks.

Perhaps his most famous kick saw him send the Rams to the Super Bowl with this 57-yarder against the Saints in the 2018 NFC title game.

Kickoffs

Zuerlein has kicked off throughout his career and has a solid touchback rate. In fact, he led the league in total touchbacks in 2021.

In Dallas, he famously set up his own game-winning field goal with this helicopter-style onside kick.

Intangibles/Miscellaneous

Zuerlein missed the entire 2010 season with a hip injury but since entering the NFL, has only missed 10 games. Seven of these, including five in 2018, were due to groin injuries, one was because he was on Covid-19 reserve last year and two were because he went on injured reserve with a back injury at the end of his all-pro season. He also had back issues that affected him throughout the 2021 season.

The conditions at Metlife shouldn’t be an issue for Zuerlein, who as noted made a record kick in the Windy City and also navigated the wind superbly on this kick.

In kick coverage, he has eight career tackles, but only one since 2015. He has been called for one face mask penalty.

Current Jets who have been teammates of Zuerlein include John Franklin-Myers, Tanzel Smart, Lamarcus Joyner and Bradlee Anae.

Conclusions

The Jets have strengthened their position with two viable options. Pineiro came in off the street last year but was solid, albeit unspectacular. However, Zuerlein has played at a higher level.

Despite missing 12 kicks last season, the Jets are still hopeful that Zuerlein can kick at a high level and that some of his issues in 2021 were attributable to his back issues. In any case, he was still better than the Jets’ options prior to Pineiro.

With his big leg, you’d have to make Zuerlein the favorite to win this battle, and he does have a slightly bigger contract guarantee. However, Pineiro’s steady play make him a good fallback option if Zuerlein should falter.