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What’s up with the Jaguars’ kicking situation?

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Often overlooked, the special teams unit on a franchise is a key aspect to wins and losses. Between field goals, flipping field position with punts and returns, it is an integral part of a football team.

And there aren’t many in the profession better at calling it than Jacksonville Jaguars special teams coordinator Heath Farwell, who was brought in by head coach Doug Pederson to fill his initial staff.

Farwell’s special teams unit with the Buffalo Bills last year finished in the top 10 for a second consecutive season in Rick Gosselin’s annual rankings.

This year, Farwell’s challenge will be extensive as the Jaguars are heading into the year with a brand-new kicker. The franchise waived last year’s place kicker Matthew Wright earlier this year, opting to move forward with veteran Ryan Santoso and rookie Andrew Mevis.

Though Wright’s field-goal percentage of 87.5% was admirable, his inconsistency on kickoffs was among the league’s worst with a 19.4% touchback-percentage, the second-worst percentage ahead of Detroit’s Austin Seibert (19.2%). Wright kicked off 31 times, while Seibert kicked off 26 times last year.

For reference, Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph was the league’s best last year with more than 21 kickoffs at 80.9%. Joseph made 94 kickoffs, converting 76 touchbacks. That metric, Farwell told members of the local media in June, is one of the more underrated metrics to look at.

“The public wants to focus on field goal percentage and that’s huge, that’s what wins games, but a big thing we do is field position. It starts with a great kickoff with great hang time, distances, directionally. Those are kicks we can cover a lot better as a coverage group,” said Farwell. “It works hand and hand between the kicker starting us off and then the coverage guys running and hitting and making those plays.”

That’s a major part of the evaluation process, he indicated, and bringing in players with big legs such as Santos and Mevis was part of that process. Thus far, Santoso appears to have the advantage over Mevis. With Santoso having more years – playing his first season in 2019 -, there’s a bit more season there instead of Mevis as a rookie.

Here’s what Farwell had to say about Santoso:

“It’s been a really good battle. Ryan Santoso has done a really good job. The guy is loaded with talent. He’s a guy that’s been on the edge for the last couple of years. He started out, he was punting and kicking. That’s one thing I want to do is kind of solidify him into the kicking. He’s done a fantastic job. He’s very talented, we just have to get him more consistent and he did that all spring. I’m really excited (about) where he’s headed.”

Santoso has averaged a 65.6% touchback-percentage during his career, while he’s made four out of five of his field goals during his career, earning the opportunity in four games last year, while playing in three games in 2019. He didn’t kick a field goal until last season. Still, his big leg and experience within the NFL appears to have him leading the pack as the team heads into training camp later this month.

As for Mevis, Farwell has seen improvement out of the rookie, something you want to see continuing to build through camp.

“Andrew Mevis is a good young player that is very consistent. Early on, he showed up and it wasn’t quite as consistent but that’s part of the deal. That’s part of being a rookie. Then here he was, he finished off the last few practices as good as anybody,” he said of the rookie kicker.

The Jaguars have plenty of competition on its roster, but the placekicker situation will be one of the more intriguing to track. The competition is far from over, and Farwell is excited to see it play out.

“Come training camp, they have taken all this month and see what it looks like (during) training camp practices, preseason games. Who can really stay focused every single practice, every single kick and we will see who wins the job. I’m excited to see the battle.”