The Houston Texans will enter training camp with a competition for their starting kicker position. The question is, will the incumbent Nick Novak be unseated by second-year kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn?
The kicker position is more important than ever with the rule change from last year that moved all extra points back to the 15 yard line. Teams can no longer rely on an “automatic” extra point. They need accurate kickers from short range who can make those extra points consistently. The Houston Texans have two guys who should be accurate heading into the 2017 season.
Nick Novak was second in the league in converted field goals last season as he went 35 for 41.
Due to the Texans’ anemic offense last season, they needed every point they could get and Novak set franchise records for field goals attempted as well as converted. He has traditionally been one of the more accurate kickers in the NFL from short to mid range since he has been in the league.
Novak has made 93 percent of his kicks inside 50 yards over the past five seasons. Where he struggles is over 50 yards, where his average dips to just 57 percent in that same period. He went four for seven beyond 50 yards last season.
Novak’s best game probably was against the Indianapolis Colts last December when he made all five field goal attempts and forced five touchbacks to help the Texans get a pivotal road win.
An area where Novak has struggled and where the Texans could use some help is on kickoffs. His lack of leg strength is evident ranking 31st in the league in average kickoff distance last season with an average of 60.1 yards. He was only able to convert 31 percent of his kickoffs into touchbacks last season. Allowing the most kickoff returns and yards despite being 23rd in kickoffs attempted.
The Young Gun
Ka’imi Fairbairn spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Entering year two, the 2015 Lou Groza award winner (given to college football’s best kicker) is aiming to unseat Novak.
As fellow Torotimes contributor Peter Manfre pointed out, Fairbairn forced touchbacks on 72.6% of his kickoffs in college.
Fairbairn is also very accurate, making 41 consecutive field goal inside of 40 yards. He has a cannon for a leg that Novak just does not have, making a 60 yard field goal back at UCLA.
Novak’s career long is 53 yards.
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If Fairbairn can consistently kick as long as his actual name ( John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn ) the Texans will have themselves a franchise kicker!
Fairbairn is accurate with a cannon. He probably would have won the job last season had he stayed healthy.
The addition of Fairbairn will help improve the Texans’ kickoff portion of special teams greatly and give Houston play call flexibility when they are faced with a 50 plus yard field goal attempt.
The Texans’coaches will also have more confidence that their kicker can make the attempt and will not be forced into punting or going for it on 4th down.
Who do you think will win the Texans’ starting kicker job? Leave a comment below and let us know!