The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a kicking battle in training camp next month, but the edge arguably goes to the newest kicker.
Josh Hill of Fansided’s Pewter Plank anticipates that the Bucs will cut kicker Chase McLaughlin and roll with more recent addition Rodrigo Blankenship. The Bucs cut kicker Ryan Succop this offseason due to salary cap constraints and then signed McLaughlin after the Indianapolis Colts released him.
McLaughlin went 30-36 on field goals and 21-21 on extra points in 16 games for the Colts last season. He hit 9-12 on field goals of 50 yards or longer, and the three-year veteran has a 17-21 career mark from that range.
As Hill noted, McLaughlin “appeared to be in the driver’s seat to be the Bucs starting kicker” this season. Then, the Bucs signed Blankenship “and everything changed”, Hill wrote.
Blankenship, who also kicked for the Colts last season before the team waived him in September, finished his season with the Arizona Cardinals. He only kicked in two games last season where he hit a 50-year field goal amid a 2-2 performance plus 2-3 on extra points.
“Blankenship hasn’t outright won the starting role, but expectations have since shifted in terms of how realistic it is that he ends up in that position,” Hill wrote. “He was simply invited to Bucs minicamp but was soon signed to an actual contract. That’s the first sign that the Bucs at least intend to have a kicking competition this summer to see who is worthy of the gig.”
“That’s trouble for McLaughlin, as it’s the exact opposite of a vote of confidence,” Hill added. “To be fair, McLaughlin replaced Blankenship in Indy when the latter was released last year so it’s familiar territory. That could also mean Blankenship is ready to get some revenge and is kicking with a purpose knowing that he won’t get many more opportunities like this in his career.”
Rodrigo Blankenship ‘Has The Ability to Make Longer Kicks’
Blankenship, similar to McLaughlin, has three seasons of experience and a career mark of 12-24 from beyond 40 yards. He has only missed twice from inside 40 yards his whole career, and he’s 54-58 on extra points.
“If there’s a tangible tiebreaker it’s Blankenship’s big leg,” Hill continued. “Between the two, Blankenship has the ability to make longer kicks and that could be what ends up working in his favor. The Bucs offense sorely needed a big leg last year, which is something Succop struggled to provide despite his accuracy from closer range.”
“Blankenship has accuracy issues but it now appears he’s the one in the driver’s seat to be the Bucs kicker and McLaughlin’s stay in Tampa Bay might be a short one,” Hill concluded.
Baker Mayfield Jokingly Has a Beef With Rodrigo Blankenship
Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield has no need to voice a preference of Blankenship or McLaughlin, but Mayfield has a beef with Blankenship — albeit humorously.
Blankenship helped Georgia beat Oklahoma in the 2017 College Football Playoff semifinals when Mayfield played for the Sooners. Mayfield greeted Blankenship with “I still don’t like you” at minicamp practice on June 13.