It was widely thought to be a closed competition when the Las Vegas Raiders cut rookie Dominik Eberle on Aug. 3, leaving incumbent Daniel Carlson as the only kicker in the Raiders’ training camp.
In reality, though, Carlson is far from a lock to be the Raiders’ kicker this season. We are 25 days away from the final cut-down date and we are 33 days from the Raiders open the season at the Carolina Panthers. There is plenty of time for this decision to be made.
The only thing that has happened so far is that the Raiders felt that an undrafted rookie wasn’t ready to be in training camp. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Carlson, who struggled in 2019 after playing well as a rookie.
The Raiders picked up Carlson when the Minnesota Vikings gave up on their fifth-round pick after he struggled early. Carlson bounced back in the Silver and Black, making 17 of 18 field-goal attempts. However, in 2019, Carlson swooned, making just 19 of 26 field-goal attempts and missing two extra-point attempts.
Still, the Raiders didn’t make a big move to replace Carlson in the offseason for a reason. He is young and the Raiders like his ability, so he will get a chance to keep the job and for now, he will get the chance to do so as the only kicker in camp.
Making things tricky is the fact that the preseason has been scuttled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The difference between making field goals in practice and game situations (even preseason games) is much different. Therefore, practices will be huge for the Raiders in their evaluations of Carlson.
But, again, if he falters, they will move on.
There are some veterans available including Adam Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski, Graham Gano, Ryan Succop, Nick Folk and Aldrick Rojas. Many of these players are in the twilight of their careers or coming off an injury. Rojas is a young player with potential, but the New York Giants recently cut him after he was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving near his California home. It might be a tough sell bringing him to a 24-hour party city like Las Vegas.
While there are kicking options for the Raiders to consider, Carlson is still the leader in the clubhouse to win the job. But, by no means, it is a done deal. He still has to impress the coaching staff in the next several weeks.