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Kicker Consideration, Week 7: Should the Seahawks kick from 55+ yards?

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Fewer punts, more points. A win in NY.

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Sunday’s win in New York started out frustrating. From bad drops to failed drives, it looked as though Jon Ryan would be getting entirely too much work this week. Luckily, the offense found it’s stride, the defense played lights out, and the Seahawks came away with a win coming off the bye week.

Speaking of Ryan, no active punter in the NFL with fewer games played has more punts pinned inside the 20 than Jon Ryan. This year, Ryan is tied for 3rd in the league for punts pinned within the 20, at 15. Additionally, the Seahawks have only allowed an average return of 6.5 yards, which is 9th best in the league. The best part of Sunday’s game against the Giants is that Ryan had a below season average number of punt attempts, five instead of seven. Also, this marks only the second game this season where Ryan punted for fewer than 200 yards. Certainly a step in the right direction for the offense of Seattle, and barring a few key drops or penalties, a number that would have been further reduced. Jon Ryan continues to perform at an excellent level despite being the 12th highest paid punter in the league, not bad for $2.5 million a year and in my opinion he’s worth every penny.

Blair Walsh had, yet again, another great outing. Looking worth every bit of his $1.003 million in cap space hit. Walsh is now 90.9% (10 of 11 attempts) on the year in field goals, 92.3% (12 of 13 attempts) in extra points made. On average, NFL teams are 84.76% (11.47/13.53) on the year on field goal attempts and 94.8% (13.72/14.47) on extra points this season. While Walsh is above-average on field goals, he’s been utilized less than the average NFL placekicker so far this year, though not by much. Additionally, Walsh is one of only nine kickers this year that has not completed a field goal from 50 yards or beyond this year. Why does this matter?

Brian Burke, expected points analysis.

Field goal kicking and punting don’t exist in a vacuum. The graph above is from Brian Burke as part of his expected points analysis found here. In this article he looks at the expected points from drives based on their starting field position. Eight times this season Jon Ryan has punted when the Seahawks were at the opposition 49 or better field position. But of those times, only four would have been a 60 yard or shorter field goal attempt with the shortest being 55 yards. This means this year, it has not been possible for Seattle to test Walsh from 50 to 54 yards. From 2009 to 2016, attempts from between 55 and 60 yards were successful only 51% of the time (90/175).

FG Attempts from 55-60 yards, 2009-2016

An unsuccessful field goal from 55 yards places your opponent at about their 45 yard line, which is 62 yards from the end zone in Burke’s graph. The expected points per drive here is about 1. So, if Walsh is a league average kicker the expected value from a kick between 55 and 60 yards is about 1.02 points gained. But, a kick from 60 yards is a much closer expected point differential of about .7 gained. This all assumes Walsh is a league-average kicker from 55 yards. However, his track record indicates he’s far above-average long range field goal attempts. Additionally, expected points are derived from using a league average defense which is significantly weaker than the 2017 Seahawks D, considering Seattle is tied for first in the NFL with Jacksonville at 15.7 points allowed per game. These edge cases can be hard to nail down, it is entirely possible that Coach Carroll wouldn’t have any kicker attempt these extreme range field goals. But, I think it’s interesting to think about and discuss from a coaching philosophy, math, and trust in your kicker standpoint.

So, is Seattle being too conservative in these cases? Or, is Coach Pete Carroll simply reserving extreme range kicks for times of dire need? That is certainly a discussion worth having. On Wednesday, Fieldgulls.com’s own John Fraley and Ben Baldwin will debate the topic of field goal length, situational considerations, and expected value of drive based on field position. Meanwhile, let me know what you think below or vote in the poll. Hope to hear from you all, enjoy the great win and Go Hawks.

Poll

Should the Seahawks kick from beyond 55?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Yes, the math seems to say so.
    (67 votes)
  • 12%
    Yes, I trust Walsh to make it given his career stats.
    (70 votes)
  • 48%
    Unsure, depends on the game.
    (276 votes)
  • 20%
    No, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
    (117 votes)
  • 6%
    No, I haven’t seen enough from Walsh.
    (34 votes)
564 votes total Vote Now