After waiving Elliott Fry on Sunday morning, Eddy Piñeiro is the last man standing in a kicking battle that once featured eight contestants back in May.
And yet, Piñeiro knows he is on thin ice.
“The way I look at it, I feel like I haven’t won the competition. Everything is still open,” Piñeiro said while talking to the media at Halas Hall on Sunday. “Who knows if they’ll bring somebody else in? But it gives me a confidence boost. I have a shot to be the guy and prove to the coaches that I can be the guy they want me to be.”
Defeating Fry in a preseason showdown should be something to celebrate, but Piñeiro knows better because of prior experiences.
It was around this time last year when the Raiders waived Giorgio Tavecchio, which cleared the way for Piñeiro to be Oakland’s kicker for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, Piñeiro suffered a groin injury before the start of the season and was placed on injured reserve. Weeks later, the Raiders scooped up Daniel Carlson, who ultimately cemented his status as Oakland’s top kicker and made Piñeiro the odd-man out in Oakland.
Piñeiro should have confidence going into the stretch run after outlasting Fry. And if he does, that’s great … because it does not sound like Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy is 100 percent sold on Piñeiro being The Guy right now.
“Like any position, we’re always out there looking for the best,” Nagy said during his Sunday press conference. “I think for Eddy, though, he needs to understand that we feel really good with where he’s at. He’s never kicked in an NFL game before, so that can go either really good or really bad. But for right now, we feel good with where he’s at.”
Good is good, but “good” isn’t enough when more is expected. And the expectations haven’t been this high for the Bears in a long time.
At least the path is clear for Piñeiro to work on things that could help Nagy’s confidence in him grow. For starters, Piñeiro needs to find more consistency in his mechanics to fully take advantage of having a leg as strong as his. Perhaps he will find that stroke over the next two weeks now that he won’t be forced to split practice reps with Fry. If he does, then the Bears might have found a long-term solution to their kicking problem.
In the end, Piñeiro should know better than to take this opportunity for granted. Because even though Piñeiro is the only kicker on the Bears’ 90-man preseason roster, he still has a ways to go before kicking his way into the team’s plans when the squad gets trimmed to 53.