Wilkins in Fine Form
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
Were it not for some coaching intervention, Jeff Wilkins might be found kicking footballs all day every day.
Instead, the man known as “Money” has had the reins pulled back in recent years on how much kicking he does during the preseason and training camp.
That regiment has paid off in spades as Wilkins seems to only get better with age.
“The proof is what he's done in the past,” coach Scott Linehan said. “He came in one camp (several) years ago and kicked a whole bunch; kicked in preseason, kicked himself out of very good rhythm.”
In the revamped method for the preseason, Wilkins doesn’t do much kicking in any of the first few preseason games and he limits his repetitions during practice. That’s why the Rams have made sure to have another kicker on the roster at least for the first part of camp.
“I do enough so I feel comfortable and I feel good,” Wilkins said. “Then you try and shut it down.”
No matter the method, Wilkins has found something that works. He is entering his 13th season in the league and 10th with the Rams. Playing one of the most scrutinized and easily judged positions in the league, that kind of consistency and longevity is impressive in its own right.
Wilkins ranks among the most accurate kickers in league history and holds almost every major kicking record for the Rams franchise. In his time in the NFL, Wilkins has made 82 percent of his field goal tries with a franchise record for field goals (252). He is also closing in on the league record for most consecutive extra points made with 311, 60 behind the all time record.
Wilkins also has an oustanding career percentage of 74.4% with 29 successes in 39 field goal attempts from 49 yards or longer.
Wilkins was particularly good last season when he was 27-of-31 on field goal attempts while converting all of his 36 extra points. Were it not for a huge season by Arizona’s Neil Rackers, Wilkins would have likely made his second Pro Bowl.
It’s no coincidence that Wilkins has had more leg strength late in the season and seems to only get stronger as the games continue.
“In the past I've had a habit of over kicking,” Wilkins said. “Getting older, I realize that I can't do as much even if I want to. My body won't allow it.”
Also helping matters has been the continuity and chemistry Wilkins has been able to maintain with his holder and snapper. Dane Looker has handled the holding duties with Chris Massey working as the snapper.
That trio has been nearly flawless in its execution and Looker has even brought a taste of his love for golf to Wilkins’ approach as a kicker.
“We go out on the field, and he's my caddie,” Wilkins said. “We'll line up before every kick, and I'll say, depending on how far it is and the conditions, 'What do you think? 7-iron? 5-iron?' Or for a 50-yarder, he might say, 'Hey, you've got to pull out the 3-wood here.”
Wilkins didn’t have to use any of his weapons in the first pair of preseason games as Remy Hamilton handled all of the kicking duties against Indianapolis and Houston. But Wilkins showed no signs of rust in his debut last week against Kansas City.
Wilkins booted a 48-yard field goal against the Chiefs and was getting good distance on his kickoffs. With that in mind, the Rams released Hamilton earlier in the week.
As for the punting competition, Andy Groom is still attempting to play catch up, but Matt Turk has been excellent in the preseason and seems to have a grasp on the job.
Linehan said the veteran presence of Wilkins and Turk has been one of the biggest bright spots for the Rams in the preseason.
“The one thing I’m very pleased with is our specialists,” Linehan said. “Our kicker and I think Matt Turk has had a great preseason. I think our specialists are certainly going to be the strength of our special teams. That’s at least a good place to start.”
Re: Wilkins in Fine Form
Ooppss!! Unless the Rams can cover punts and kick-offs, it does not really matter how well they kick.
At least Linehan said "specialists" and not special teams!!!