Jets’ Robert Saleh Declares Open Competition: ‘May the Best Man Win’

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh on November 28, 2021.

Just over a week ago on November 23, the New York Jets signaled one last chance for kicker Matt Ammendola to secure his job when they signed Alex Kessman to the practice squad instead of the active roster.

The writing was on the wall, as the saying goes, and Ammendola fumbled the opportunity. Actually, a better word might be shanked.

During the Week 12 victory over the Houston Texans, the Jets’ first-year kicker missed his sixth field goal of the season from 42 yards out. Not only did he continue to struggle from 40-plus yards (two for eight on the year), Ammendola also proved unreliable in the clutch.

Earlier today on December 1, head coach Robert Saleh made an announcement on the situation at kicker.

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At Your Marks… Kick!

During the press conference, ESPN’s Rich Cimini asked if there would be a competition at kicker after a practice squad protection was used on Kessman this week.

“Yeah, we’re going to open it up for a little competition, get those two guys working, and may the best man win,” Saleh responded.

Kickers! At your marks! It’s time to figure out who can hit that dreaded 45-yard field goal Jets fans have been agonizing over the past few seasons.

I’m kidding, but seriously, are we confident that either of these guys is the answer long-term? Ammendola has been brutal and Kessman has never kicked in an NFL game — sound familiar?

He’s basically a carbon copy of the man he’s been brought in to replace, another shot in the dark prospect with a big leg that struggles with accuracy. I see these as scratch-off tickets for Joe Douglas but realistically, the Jets GM may have to target this position next spring.

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2022 Options, Should They Fail

If it wasn’t obvious above, I’m not overly confident in this pair. Maybe one of them will step up, hopefully, but I’m not holding my breath and I doubt too many Gang Green supporters are either.

This position has been a revolving door since letting veterans like Jason Myers and Nick Folk walk in free agency. Even those two were mercenaries though, brought in from other franchises to briefly provide us with competency.

The Jets need to solve this problem for good and they have a plethora of draft capital to do so. Douglas currently has nine draft picks to play with in 2022 and ironically, all of them are currently located in the top five rounds.

  • Jets and Seattle Seahawks first-rounders.
  • Jets and Carolina Panthers second-rounders.
  • Jets third-rounder.
  • Panthers and Minnesota Vikings fourth-rounders.
  • Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-rounders.

You could theoretically use a fifth on a top-kicking prospect. Evan McPherson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. I think most GMs would prefer to spend no higher than a sixth though.

Douglas used one of those on Braden Mann in 2020 and he could do something similar in the upcoming draft. Whether he uses the lower fifth or trades down at some point and recoups an extra sixth or seventh, the big man in charge has options.

Below are the top kicking prospects next year according to Pro Football Network.

  • Cade York (LSU): Has a reputation for making kicks in the clutch and has hit from 57 yards out. “Reliable, accurate, clutch, with the leg to boom it from nearly 60 yards, York is the top kicker in the 2022 NFL Draft class,” plus York in New York has a nice ring to it.
  • Gabe Brkic (Oklahoma): Fits more of the Ammendola mode, inconsistency with a strong leg from deep. “The ability to boom a field goal from downtown to win a game will help separate Brkic as one of the top kickers in the 2022 NFL Draft.”
  • Nick Sciba (Wake Forest): Top field goal percentage in the draft at 90.8% but he’s never hit from 50-plus yards in his career. This does not jive with Douglas’ track record at kicker but maybe it’s time for a change in strategy?
  • Will Reichard (Alabama): A true junior that could stay at Bama one more season, Reichard is “as reliable as they come.” He has a “career field-goal completion percentage of 84.8% and has missed just one extra point in 153 attempts.”

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