The kicking game of the Special Teams unit hasn’t been consistent since we cut John Kasay and opted for the kicker from Seattle, Olindo Mare. We all know how that turned out, he blew a few games for the Panthers by missing a few key field goals in games that could have turned the tide for the rest of the season, but it is what it is. Things did not exactly look up after Mare. The Panthers decided that the old adage, “competition brings out the best in people”, applied to the Special Teams unit. Justin Medlock and Nate Kaeding were paired up against each other during training camp last season and Medlock came out victorious.
The future wasn’t exactly bright under Medlock and some would say his time with the team proved to be worse than Mare. His consistency under pressure was not up to par and he was inevitably cut to be replaced by Graham Gano.
Gano seems to be what the team needs, a consistent placekicker, accurate, and most important to me, consistent under pressure. His presence under pressure was shown against the Eagles on Monday Night, making a kick that put the team ahead by two and set the tone for the rest of the fourth quarter. However, this is all based off of one season; we haven’t truly seen what Gano is really made of. He hasn’t truly been tested, the Philadelphia Eagles game wasn’t exactly a must win, though it did open up a few wins for the team later on in the season.
I do have complete faith in Gano and I’m sure he will not let me down. Though his track record has been less than pristine, he earned the nickname “Oh no, Gano” during his time in Washington due to inconsistent play when it DOESN’T count. He does have the same percentage of made field goals as Panthers great John Kasay, 81%, and has a sterling record of overtime makes with the Redskins, when it DOES count. So while his past time in the NFL has been a mixed bag, I am convinced he will turn out to be what I personally want in a kicker, a bomb dropper when it comes to kick-offs and able to make the important field goal when it counts.
The Panthers have brought in another placekicker, Morgan Lineberry, (a UDFA from Abilene Christian University) to compete with Gano during the offseason. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Gano will keep his spot as the Panthers starting kicker. I mean honestly I do not think our kicking game can get any worse than it has been in the past under Medlock and Mare. If Gano can just be a step above them and a step below Kasay I will be more than satisfied.