Nate Kaeding, K #10
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
Experience: 9 years
With five field goals in San Diego’s 22-14 season-opening win over arch-rival Oakland Monday evening, Nate Kaeding sure looked like a guy who had recovered from a serious injury a year ago.
Turning the clock back just a season ago, Kaeding, who is in the final year of his contract with the Bolts, was injured on the first play of the season while kicking off to the Minnesota Vikings.
The season-ending injury left Kaeding sidelined for the season, while Nick Novak took over the field goal duties. Novak, who battled Kaeding for the starting job this preseason, was cut by the Chargers before the start of the 2012 regular season. To most Chargers fans, the move by management was the correct call.
In comments to Chargers.com, Kaeding remarked “It’s been a long year, there’s no doubt about it. Sometimes as a professional athlete, you have to fight your way back and tonight (Sept. 10) was a great way to start the season. It was a great way to start all over again and it was a great win. But I’ve been kicking long enough to know that you’ve got to go in and get ready for the next game.”
As noted earlier, Kaeding could only watch and agonize over what might have been a season ago, tearing his ACL in his left knee while attempting to make a tackle to start the season. While Novak did an admirable job of filling in for the Iowa product, most teammates, fans, and especially management knew it was Kaeding’s job to lose going into the 2012 campaign.
Regular Season Versus Playoffs
Chosen in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Kaeding came into this season ranked as the most accurate field goal kicker in league history, hitting at an 86.5 completion percentage.
While some Charger fans single him out for his playoff problems over the years of making the big kick when needed (aka versus the Jets), most would also argue that he’s one of the team’s most valuable players. Even though QB Philip Rivers is above and beyond the team’s most important asset, Kaeding is not too far behind on the importance list if you ask most teammates and fans of the Bolts.
Speaking of those misses in the playoffs, Kaeding’s biggest knock has been his inability at times in the postseason to nail the necessary kicks. Most notably, he missed three field goals in 2009 AFC Divisional Round versus the Jets, sending the Chargers home for the rest of the year with a 17-14 setback.
Still, Kaeding is mostly a lock during regular season play, so you will not find too many fans who would rather have someone other than number 10 handling the placekicking duties.
For his career, Kaeding is 48-of-51 from 30 to 39 yards out, while going 10-of-17 from 50 yards and beyond. In 346 extra point attempts, Kaeding has missed a mere two.
Yes, teams pay kickers big dollars to make the kicks when they most count, something Kaeding hopes he gets another chance to do come January.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.