Training Camp Battles Part IX
July 13 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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In the penultimate training camp battle preview I take a look at the 49ers kicking situation heading into training camp. The place kicking position has rarely seen as much publicity as it did this past off-season (as the 49ers were trying to cut one of Jamie Rheem, Jose Cortez or rookie Jeff Chandler), while the punting situation was rather quiet, because Jason Bakerís competition Andrew Bayes was in Europe.
With the place kicking position now trimmed down to just Cortez and Chandler, the dead even battle will pick up intensity. Jose Cortez started last season off great for the 49ers, connecting on a perfect 11 consecutive field goals. Coming off a complete season with the now defunct XFL however, resulted in Cortezís leg tiring towards the end of the season. His tired leg lost accuracy, and trajectory resulting in missed and blocked kicks. But now that he is well rested, heís been back to his old self again in mini-camp. Cortez has been nailing kicks from just about every distance in an effort to hold onto his roster position.
The 49ers spent a fourth round pick on Jeff Chandler, and if they cut him it will look pretty bad for their draft. Chandler is a solid kicker with a strong, accurate leg. He played for Florida in college, so heís used to being in front of big crowds. A solid draft pick, but Chandler has been unable to show the 49ers that he is any better or worse than Cortez. Of course if Chandler wins some games for the team, or even doesnít lose games for the team, the draft pick will be well spent.
The place kicker position can play out in a number of ways. If one kicker out right beats the other kicker, the 49ers are likely to keep them. But to save face, if itís a dead even heat, expect Chandler to get the nod. The 49ers executives wonít want to see a fourth round draft pick go to waste. Cortez however, is not likely to relinquish his position very easily. If this battle is not one by kicking the ball through the uprights, it may be decided on kickoffs.
Jason Baker was selected as the punter for the all rookie team last season. Averaging 40.8 yards per kick on 69 attempts (about a yard shorter than his entire college career); Baker was accurate and did an overall good job for the 49ers. Baker was consistent in his kicks, recording only one rather poor performance against Atlanta in September.
Andre Bayes had a successful outing in Europe, averaging 44 yards on 53 punts after averaging only 38 yards in the prior NFLE season. Bayes has a strong leg, and will bring competition to the position in training camp.
More than likely it will be Jason Baker winning the punting job this year. Barring injury, we can expect the same consistent punting we saw last season.