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In the volatile world of the National Football League (NFL), the role of a reliable kicker often goes unnoticed until a game is on the line. For the New York Jets, the quest for a dependable kicker had been a painfully long journey, spanning numerous seasons and multiple players. However, that all changed with the arrival of the seasoned veteran – Greg Zuerlein. This article will delve into Zuerlein’s impact on the Jets, shedding light on his impeccable performances and the stability he has provided to the team’s kicker position.
The Struggles Preceding Greg Zuerlein
The New York Jets had long been plagued with instability in the kicker position, which had been a significant weakness over the years. The lackluster performance of the kickers often resulted in lost games, causing much frustration among the team and fans alike.
Following the departure of Pro Bowl player Jason Myers in 2018, the Jets found themselves in a revolving door of kickers. Over the next four seasons, they cycled through seven different kickers, none of whom could bring a sense of stability or consistency to the position.
The Arrival of Greg Zuerlein
In March 2022, the Jets made a pivotal move by signing Greg Zuerlein, an 11th-year veteran kicker. Before Zuerlein stepped onto the field in a Jets uniform, he had already made a name for himself with an impressive career track record.
Zuerlein, popularly known as “Greg the Leg”, had established himself as a reliable kicker with a stellar career field goal percentage of 82.2%. What set him apart was his exceptional leg strength, which had seen him make 38 field goals of 50+ yards, the third-highest since 2012. Additionally, his consistency in extra points (95.8%) and kickoffs, with a career touchback rate of 68.2%, made him a prized catch for the Jets.
Zuerlein’s Impressive First Season with the Jets
Zuerlein’s first season with the Jets was nothing short of impressive. He made 30 out of 37 field goals, giving him an 81.1% success rate. He also converted 28 out of 29 extra points, boasting a 96.6% success rate.
What stood out most about Zuerlein’s performance was his ability to make long-distance kicks. He successfully converted 6 out of 11 attempts from 50+ yards, setting a new franchise record with a 60-yard attempt and two successful kicks from 57 yards.
Not only did Zuerlein prove his prowess in long-distance kicks, but he also showed consistency in shorter kicks. From under 50 yards away, Zuerlein successfully made 24 out of 26 attempts, a success rate of 92.3%.
Sealing the Deal for 2023
Following his successful run in 2022, the Jets re-signed Zuerlein for the upcoming 2023 season, securing his services for another year. The team hopes that the 35-year-old can continue to bring the same level of consistency he demonstrated in the previous season.
Living up to the Nickname
In the early stages of the 2023 preseason and training camp, Zuerlein has lived up to his nickname, “Greg the Leg”, and his career track record. He has exhibited a high level of consistency, rarely missing any kicks under 40 yards and successfully converting a good number of kicks exceeding 40 yards.
In the Jets’ preseason opener, Greg Zuerlein demonstrated his unwavering accuracy, converting all three field goals and the sole extra point he attempted.
A Crucial Pillar for the Jets
Zuerlein’s consistency is an asset that the Jets cannot afford to lose. If he can build on his 2022 performance and continue his current form, the Jets’ kicker position will be a strength that the team can rely on, pushing them towards more victories in close games.
The Impact of Aaron Rodgers’ Arrival
The Jets’ recent acquisition of Aaron Rodgers is expected to boost the team’s offense, which could mean more opportunities for Greg Zuerlein. Expected to be busier in 2023, the veteran kicker’s performance will play a crucial role in the Jets’ success.
Performance in the Hall of Fame Game
Zuerlein’s performance in the Hall of Fame Game further underscored his value to the Jets. The veteran kicker successfully converted all three of his first-half field goal attempts, two of which were from 50+ yards. This impressive display helped the Jets take a 16-7 lead into halftime.
Greg Zuerlein’s arrival at the New York Jets has undeniably brought stability to their kicker position. His consistent performances, coupled with his ability to convert long and short kicks, make him an asset to the team. As the Jets gear up for the 2023 season, their hopes will be pinned on Zuerlein, whose reliability could be the difference between victory and defeat in close games.