While spotlight DC set a career-high in completion percentage, the less-heralded DC saw his conversion rate dip steeply. Such was the 2019 season for quarterback Derek Carr and kicker Daniel Carlson.
The focus here is Carlson — placekicker — that saw a steep decline in his (critical) ability to put the ball in between the uprights this past season. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore kicker out of Auburn made just 19 of 26 boots last year and his 73.1 percentage was 27th out of 32 qualifiers. Moreover, he was 34 of 36 on extra points (the 94.4 conversion percentage 19th). His first miss of the season came against the squad that drafted him — Minnesota — in Week 3 and didn’t miss again until Week 8. From that point, he drilled some then missed others.
Carlson was perfect (8-for-8) on kicks at or inside the 29, 5-for-6 on boots at or inside the 39, 6-for-10 at or inside the 49 and 0-for-2 from 50-plus yards out.
All this, after coming to Oakland as a waiver claim in 2018 (when the Vikings waxed him after going 1 for 4) and smashing 16 of 17 kicks (94.1 percent) in his inaugural season as a Raider. His lone miss that year was against San Francisco.
To much of his credit, Carlson (like Carr) says his down sophomore campaign is all on him. There’s no one else to blame.
“There’s been some different things,” Carlson said. “Whether it was approaching how I was playing it into the wind or how I was hitting the ball that day that I’ve learned. I’m continuing to learn. I had a great warm-up today. I was hitting the ball well. I just didn’t take advantage of it at the end [of Sunday’s game]. I didn’t hit it perfectly. Like I said, I have to look at it [on film] to see anything technically. It’s completely my fault. I take full responsibility for it.”
Fortunately for Carlson, the Raiders don’t appear as impatient as his former squad. He’s also very young (24 years old) and unlike some veterans who’ve been downgraded on the depth chart (QB Mike Glennon) or even outright released (safety DJ Swearinger), head honcho Jon Gruden publicly backs the kicker.
“We are going to see this kid kick himself out of it,” Gruden said. “This is a great kid, he’s got a great amount of talent. I saw him hit 15 in a row last year and I got a lot of faith in this guy. I really do. He’s going to kick himself out of it or I’ll be very disappointed. I’ve got a lot of faith in this kid.”
The coach likely doesn’t want a repeat of the 2018 season that saw the Raiders deploy a trio of kickers before Carlson came and got a solid foothold on the gig. Still, it’s a bit disheartening to see a player who the team thought was a solid option falter in 2019. This especially after Las Vegas appear to have solved the conundrum at punter with undrafted free agent rookie A.J. Cole.
Looks like Carlson needs to tinker his approach once more and follow through, something he pointed out led to his turnaround from Minnesota to Oakland. Perhaps the dome and controlled environment at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will help his cause.
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