With the new ruling that kickoffs will be moved to the 35-yard line, I thought this would be an ideal time to look at the Broncos’ kicking game. We all know that the thin Mile High air allows the football to travel greater distances, and last season alone, kicker Matt Prater booted nearly all of his kickoffs into the endzone or beyond. Don’t expect to see many returned kickoffs in Denver this year.
When Jason Elam left Denver for Atlanta and then for retirement, heads lowered and we were sad to see him go. His leg was money and it won the Broncos many games in the final seconds.
Matt Prater is a 3-year veteran that has done a fine job trying to fill the big shoes that Elam left behind. His field goal percentage has increased each year (from 73.5% his rookie season to 85.7% his second year to 88.9% last year). Out of 102 extra points attempted, Prater has missed 2 during his career.
Let’s look at Matt Prater and the season he had last year.
As far as total points, this was Prater’s least productive year since he missed four regular season games due to injury. The Broncos didn’t put themselves in scoring position much either. He had 76 total points compared to 114 points his rookie year and 122 points his second year.
He finished the 2010 season ranked 8th in the league in field goal percentage and he made the second longest field-goal of the year, a 59-yarder against the Jets. He went 10-for-10 between the 20 and the 39 yard line, missed one from 40-49 yards out, and went 2-for-3 from 50+.
I like where this kicking game is headed. Prater seems to improve with each passing year, and it’s clear that he’s got great chemistry with punter/holder Brett Kern, and long-time long snapper Lonnie Paxton.
As fans, when we don’t reflect back on the Elam era when the Broncos’ special teams comes out to kick a field goal, that’s a good sign.
Here’s to more success from the young kicker and his best friend, the Mile High air.
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