After a record setting season last year David Akers has come back down to earth. In 2011 he led the league in attempts and field goals while posting a 84.6% field goal percentage. It was a great year by just about any measure.
This year it is safe to say that things haven’t gone so well for him. Now word out of Wednesday’s press conference is that Akers has a bit of a nagging injury, which according the 49ers’ practice report affects Akers’ pelvis.
With the struggles and “injury” comes word that the 49ers are exploring their options.
Two days after David Akers missed two more field goals, the 49ers tried out two kickers Tuesday: veterans Nate Kaeding and Billy Cundiff.
The tryouts, reported by Scout.com, came with Akers in the midst of a slump in which he’s missed eight of his past 21 attempts, including four of seven tries from 40 to 49 yards. Akers ranks 29th in the NFL in field-goal percentage (70.4) after he missed a 50-yarder and had a 33-yard attempt blocked Sunday in a 31-21 win against the Saints.
Kaeding, 30, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, has been plagued with injuries the past two seasons. He tore his ACL in the 2011 season opener and missed the rest of the season. He made his first seven field goals this season, but sustained a groin injury in Week 3 and was released by the Chargers on Oct. 30.
A two-time Pro Bowler who spent his first nine seasons in San Diego, Kaeding leads in the NFL in career field-goal percentage (86.9), but has made just 8 of 15 attempts in the postseason.
Cundiff, 32, was released by the Redskins on Oct. 10 after he made just 7 of 12 attempts this season. He was released by the Ravens in late August after he missed a potential game-tying 32-yard field goal in the final seconds of a 23-20 loss to the Patriots in last season’s AFC Championship Game. Cundiff ranks 62nd in NFL history in field-goal percentage (75.5).
Looking at the raw numbers this makes sense, Akers hasn’t kicked well lately and his field goal percentage is down pretty significantly from last season. BASG even floated the notion a couple weeks ago that the 49ers might look at a replacement like Kaeding. However, Kaeding and Cundiff are available for a reason, and Akers might not miss any time at all.
However, if you take a deeper look maybe their is something else beside just an injury that is making things look worse than what they appear on the surface.
The biggest difference percentage wise between this year, last year and his career is that he is making slightly less from the 30-39 yard range, slightly more than last year in the 40-49 range but less than his career mark and he has gone only 1 for 4 from 50+ yards (with that one being a 63-yarder of all things).
The percentages outside of the really long field goals really isn’t that far from what he did last year or what he has done for his career.
If we take his same distance distribution that he had last year his overall field goal percentage increases from 70.4% to 75%, which makes it look much more respectable and closer to his career numbers. This suggests that maybe there is something to the idea that the 49ers offense doing better this season has negatively effected Akers’ numbers.
From inside of 50 yards Akers has been pretty much the same guy that he has always been. This year he has not had the same luck from long distance and maybe that is where the injury is affecting him the most. If that is the case maybe Jim Harbaugh should get more aggressive in going for first downs instead of trying 50+ yard field goals (which is probably a better bet anyway).
I am not ready to jump off the Akers bandwagon, 27 attempts is far too small a sample to make that judgement on, especially for an established kicker. Sure he isn’t the same kicker he was last year, but last year was a career year and it would be pretty unreasonable to expect him to be able repeat that again. Going forward it is probably a pretty good bet that he will be what he has always been, nearly automatic from inside 40 yards and good for about 60% on those kicks longer than that.