Even though Eddy Piñeiro knocked off Elliott Fry in the summertime camp battle, Piñeiro was self-aware enough to know he still had work to do in order to secure a spot on the Chicago Bears’ season-opening 53-man roster.
And with six days until the NFL’s cut-down day, Piñeiro made his case to be the Bears’ lone kicker when the season kicks off on September 5.
It was an ideal time for Piñeiro to have a perfect night against the Colts in Indianapolis. Piñeiro made both field goal attempts, including an impressive 58-yarder that even had some room to spare. He also made all three of his extra-point attempts, had three touchbacks, and two other kickoffs that pinned the Colts deep in their own territory. The successful kicking of the field goal through the uprights (as opposed to hitting them) is what will ultimately make or break Piñeiro’s career, but let’s not overlook the value of booting touchbacks through the end zone. Chris Tabor’s special teams unit struggled in kick coverage last year, and the best way to improve upon that might be to kick balls that aren’t returnable.
Last week marked the first time since Piñeiro was at Florida that he was the lone kicker in camp. And even though I’m not sure how that impacts a player’s psyche, Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy appears to have seen a little more swag from the only kicker on the roster.
“When we went out to practice, I think you could see a little more confidence in him knowing that he’s going to get every rep,” Nagy said, via the Bears’ official website. “There’s no question when [he] is kicking in the game, in practice, etc. It kind of goes back to the days in training camp when we were giving those kickers a full day; they knew they weren’t alternating, so I think it certainly helps.”
Nagy brings up a good point in how the kickers performed when they weren’t splitting time. I’m #NotAScout, but I can see where getting all of the practice reps could help a kicker’s confidence and consistency. For what it’s worth, I also felt that Piñeiro and Fry looked to be at their best in Bourbonnais when each was getting a full share of the practice reps. So to hear Nagy essentially confirm what I saw in camp by noting that is what he saw at camp really puts things into perspective. The most successful kickers seem to have a mental edge and ice cold veins when it’s time to perform, so it is possible that removing one mental hurdle has made it that much easier for Piñeiro to do what he does best — and that’s kick the crud out of a football.
Piñeiro will get another chance to strut his stuff on his own in practice this week, as well as in the preseason finale against the Titans. So while he hasn’t quite put himself on the roster just yet, Saturday’s performance put him in a position to pounce on a spot if he continues to kick well.