TAMPA — Don’t look now, but the Bucs’ kicking job is again up for grabs.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians said Friday that it’s an “ongoing competition” between incumbent Matt Gay, the team’s fifth-round pick last season, and Elliott Fry, whom the Bucs claimed off waivers in May.
In Friday’s practice, the two competed kick for kick, with Fry going 3-for-4 from 40 yards or longer. Gay went 1-for-4 in that sequence. Fry also ended his day converting a 56-yard field goal. Both kickers converted their kicks when the Bucs ran their two-minute drill.
“We’ll add them up at the end,” Arians said. “They both hit game winners in the pressure situations (Thursday in practice). It’s a shame we don’t have preseason games to throw them out there and find out. But Elliott’s kicking the ball extremely well.”
Fry, who kicked in the Alliance of American Football and was on three NFL rosters over the past year, doesn’t have the leg strength that Gay possesses, but he has proven to be accurate, which ultimately may matter more.
Gay made 27-of-35 field-goal attempts last season as a rookie, and was just 21 for 29 from 30 yards and beyond. He missed 3-of-4 field-goal attempts in the Bucs’ Week 17 overtime loss to Atlanta, and missed two extra points and a potential game-winning field goal in a one-point home loss to the Giants on Sept. 22.
Arians has mentioned how Gay has struggled kicking into the south end zone at Raymond James Stadium, and both kickers have already practiced kicks into that upright at the stadium. With no preseason games, the closest simulated opportunities to kick at Raymond James will be the two scrimmages the team has planned.
“So it’s gonna be important for them when we go up there and scrimmage and have the live kicking stuff,” Arians said. “We’re trying to put as much pressure on them as we can in our kicking drills, which we haven’t done in the past.”
Fry was 8 for 8 on field goals kicking for the Orlando Apollos last year and made 3-of-4 field goals competing for the Bears’ kicking job last preseason before he was released. He then signed with the Ravens, but didn’t make their final roster and signed a futures/reserve deal with the Panthers in December but was waived in April.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.