Brett Maher and Sam Ficken
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

The Jets will need either Sam Ficken or Brett Maher to soar beyond their career norms to avoid another season of poor kicking production.

New York Jets training camp primers:

After a season of futility at the kicker position, the future is not looking much brighter for the Jets. Two mediocre-at-best performers – the returning Sam Ficken and the volatile Brett Maher – are set to duel for the Week 1 job.

Could one of them shock the world with a breakout season, solving the Jets’ kicking woes? Here is everything you need to know about both competitors.

General background information

Ficken:

  • Currently 27.6 years old (turns 28 on December 14)
  • College: Penn State
  • Undrafted in 2016
  • NFL debut in 2017
  • 3 seasons, 19 games of experience (Rams, Jets)

Maher:

  • Currently 30.7 years old (turns 31 on November 21)
  • College: Nebraska
  • Undrafted in 2013
  • NFL debut in 2018
  • 2 seasons, 29 games of experience (Cowboys)

Basic 2019 stats

Ficken’s ranks:

  • Field goals: 70.4% (30th / 32 qualifiers)
  • Extra points: 88.5% (31st / 31)
  • Average kickoff hangtime: 4.08 seconds (9th / 32)
  • Average opponent starting field position off of kickoffs: 25.3-yard line (16th / 32)

Maher’s ranks:

  • Field goals: 66.7% (32nd / 32 qualifiers)
  • Extra points: 100.0% (36 makes without a miss, 2nd-most)
  • Average kickoff hangtime: 3.97 seconds (25th / 32)
  • Average opponent starting field position off of kickoffs: 26.4-yard line (25th / 32)

Sam Ficken’s positive outlook

Tough situations

One reasonable excuse for Ficken’s brutal 2019 field goal percentage of 70.4% is that his job was more difficult than most kickers in the league. Ficken’s average field goal attempt was from 42.8 yards out, the second-longest average distance among qualified kickers.

Home sweet home

Ficken played well at MetLife Stadium, connecting on 12-of-14 field goals (85.7%) even at a very long average distance of 42.1 yards. He made 6-of-8 kicks from 40+ yards out, 4-of-4 in the range of 42-to-46 yards, and 2-of-3 from 53+.

Ficken also made 13-of-14 extra points at home, a 92.9% rate, just below the 2019 league average of 93.9%.

Intermediate kicking

Ficken’s hotspot with the Jets was from 35-to-46 yards out. In that range, he went a perfect 12-for-12, tying him with Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka for the most makes without a miss in 2019.

With this 44-yarder at MetLife (combining his two best splits), Ficken delivered the Jets their first come-from-behind game-winning field goal as time expired since Nick Folk squashed the Falcons on Monday Night Football in 2013.

Sam Ficken

Kickoffs

The Jets led the NFL with a kickoff DVOA of +6.5 under the leadership of Ficken’s right leg. Individually, Ficken ranked ninth among qualified kickers with an average hangtime of 4.08 seconds on his kickoffs.

Sam Ficken’s problem areas

Homesickness

Ficken was downright awful when kicking outside of MetLife Stadium. He made 7-of-13 field goals (55.8%) and 10-of-12 extra points (83.3%).

Including his brief Rams career (4 games), Ficken has connected on 7-of-14 field goals (50.0%) and 13-of-16 extra points (81.3%) on the road. Those numbers are not remotely NFL-caliber.

Distance

Connecting from long distance has been Ficken’s most pressing issue. He has made only 5-of-13 field goals (38.5%) in the 45-to-55 range over the course of his career. That’s the worst rate among qualifiers since 2017 – the league average was 68.2% over that span. Every other qualifier but one (Cairo Santos) made at least 50% of those kicks.

Ficken went 1-for-6 (16.7%) from 49+ on the road in 2019. He pushes this 49-yarder in Miami wide right from the left hash.

Sam Ficken

Flubbing wide-open layups

Ficken has gone just 8-of-11 (72.7%) on kicks from 36 yards out or fewer in his career. Out of the 55 kickers to try even just one kick in that range since 2017, Ficken is the only one with a conversion rate below 80%. The league average over that span was 95.5%.

Brett Maher’s positive outlook

Record-setting power

Maher’s right leg may be the strongest limb on the Jets roster. The records he has set with it in such a short time are staggering.


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