What does Greg Zuerlein bring to the New York Jets?
Let’s dig into Zuerlein’s profile as a player to see what kind of kicker the Jets are getting.
Career accuracy splits
Zuerlein owns a career field-goal percentage of 82.2%. But what can we learn about his strengths and weaknesses if we dissect that number?
Here is a look at Zuerlein’s career field-goal percentages by distance range, compared to the league-wide averages from 2012-21:
- 18-29 yards: 63/64 (98.4%) – 2012-21 NFL average: 97.7%
- 30-39 yards: 98/106 (92.5%) – 2012-21 NFL average: 92.1%
- 40-49 yards: 65/82 (79.3%) – 2012-21 NFL average: 78.1%
- 50+ yards: 38/69 (55.1%) – 2012-21 NFL average: 63.3%
Zuerlein may not be quite as automatic as some of the league’s most outstanding kickers but he is still very reliable on short and intermediate kicks, canning anything below 50 yards at a rate slightly above the NFL average.
However, despite being known for his leg strength (bearing nicknames like “Greg The Leg” and “Legatron”), the 50+ range is actually Zuerlein’s worst compared to league average. He’s slightly above the NFL average in each of the other three ranges, but his conversion rate in the 50+ range is 8.2% below the league average.
Interestingly, while Zuerlein is pretty good at extremely deep 50+ yarders, he’s surprisingly bad at the “shorter” 50+ yarders.
From 50 to 52 yards out, Zuerlein struggles mightily. Zuerlein is 10 for 23 on kicks in that range, a 43.5% rate that falls substantially below the league average since 2012, which is 68.0%. It’s the second-worst rate among kickers who have attempted at least 10 field goals in that range.
But when kicking from beyond 52 yards, Zuerlein is money. Zuerlein is 28 for 46 on field goals from 53+ yards out, a 60.9% conversion rate, which beats the NFL average of 58.8%. His total of 28 makes in that range trails only Matt Prater (33) since 2012.
2021 accuracy splits
Zuerlein had a field goal percentage of 82.9% in 2021, which ranked 25th out of 34 qualified kickers. The league average field goal percentage was 85.1%.
Here’s how Zuerlein did in each range:
- 18-29 yards: 5/5 (100.0%) – 2021 NFL average: 99.2%
- 30-39 yards: 15/16 (93.8%) – 2021 NFL average: 93.3%
- 40-49 yards: 7/9 (77.8%) – 2021 NFL average: 77.6%
- 50+ yards: 2/5 (40.0%) – 2021 NFL average: 66.3%
Lining up with his career tendencies, Zuerlein performed at a perfectly average level on sub-50 kicks but was not effective from 50+. Zuerlein made kicks from 55 and 56 yards but missed from 51, 59, and 60.
Since the extra point moved back to 33 yards in 2015, Zuerlein has been mostly solid. He’s connected on 94.6% of his extra points since 2015, above the league average of 94.0%.
However, we’ve seen Zuerlein show worrying signs of decline in this area recently.
Zuerlein missed three of 36 extra points for Dallas in 2020 as he finished with a 91.7% rate, a career-low at the time. He set another career-low in 2021 as he missed an NFL-high six extra points, making only 42 of 48 tries for a league-worst 87.5% conversion rate.
Zuerlein is really good on kickoffs. He uses his leg strength to produce touchbacks and minimize return attempts.
Only 19.0% of Zuerlein’s 100 kickoffs were returned in 2021, the lowest rate among 33 qualified players. Zuerlein picked up 80 touchbacks, ranking second-best with an 80.0% touchback rate.
Zuerlein has had one of the 12 lowest return rates among qualified kickoff men in five consecutive seasons.
Clutch kicking, outdoor kicking
Zuerlein is solid in the clutch. For his career, he is 38 for 45 (84.4%) on field goals to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter and overtime. Zuerlein went 10 for 11 (90.9%) on these kicks over his two seasons in Dallas.
There is concern about Zuerlein’s ability to thrive for an outdoor team in New Jersey. He’s spent most of his career playing in fair conditions (either indoor or in southern California) and does have stark splits between his indoor and outdoor kicking.
Zuerlein has a field goal percentage of 85.3% and an extra point percentage of 97.8% when playing indoors. When kicking outdoors, Zuerlein has a field goal percentage of 80.0% and an extra point percentage of 93.5%.
Greg Zuerlein is a solid addition to the Jets’ kicking competition
With Zuerlein and Pineiro in the building, the Jets have a chance to enjoy a season of competent kicking for once. It’s unlikely that either player sniffs a Pro Bowl appearance, but whoever wins the competition is equally unlikely to sputter through an egregious season in which they are a glaring liability.
Kudos to Joe Douglas for finally bringing some proven legs to Florham Park.