Good Morning, Broncos fans! Prior to Sunday's game, we checked on Matt Prater's statistics from this season, and what we found wasn't pretty.
Prater's not only been struggling with inaccuracy on field goals, but is allowing teams better starting position following kickoffs than teammates are, at least in the mile high confines of SAF@MH. You know - where Prater is supposed to be blasting touchbacks on every try. Sunday's visit from Josh Cribbs did nothing to help Prater's numbers.
What about on the road? Let's take a look.
Just to clarify our data, and this applies to the home numbers as well, we've excluded all onside kicks, squibs, and kicks by Britton Colquitt.
Away from Denver, on regular kickoffs, Prater has permitted opponents an average starting field position of the 21.98-yard line. Although Prater has kicked plenty of touchbacks on the road (19/40, 47.5%), he allowed multiple long returns in each game at San Diego, Cincy, and Baltimore.
Thanks to Trindon Holliday, the Broncos have gotten better field position than their opponents on the road, starting at the 23.50-yard line on average.
Omar Bolden had handled kickoffs for the first several weeks of the season, with extremely poor results. On 15 road returns, Bolden failed to bring the ball out to the 20 on five occasions, and provided Denver an average start of the 19.73-yard line.
Holliday has been electric, with his 105-yard touchdown return at Cincinnati boosting Denver's average start with him returning to the 26.82-yard line. That even includes Trindon letting the ball die at the one-yard line in that same game.
Opposing kickers have gained touchbacks on 15 of 32 (46.9%) attempts, which is almost exactly what Prater's done.
Combining home and road data (including the Browns game), Denver has started, on average, from its own 21.38-yard line following kickoffs. Opponents, following kickoffs by Prater, have started at their 21.17-yard line on average.
Admittedly, we're not dealing with huge samples here, and electric returners like Holliday, Jacoby Jones, and Josh Cribbs serve to skew the figures a bit.
But taken with those grains of salt, these figures show us that the overstated strength of Matt Prater's leg hasn't been offering the Broncos much of an advantage on kickoffs this year, if at all.
His kickoffs have essentially been matched by Denver's opponents; he's among the least accurate FG kickers in the league, for the second year in a row.
So, he's really good from 50 yards and out. But as a Bronco, he's only attempted five of those per year on average. It doesn't seem like there's enough value there to make up for his shortcomings.
If long field goals are where he sets himself apart from others, but that comes at the expense of missing shorter attempts, and there's no distinct advantage on kickoffs, then is Matt Prater worth keeping around at all, especially at one of the highest kicker salaries in the league?
It would be hard enough to vouch for Prater's worth if he were paid half or a third of what he's getting. At $4.25M this season, it's a no-brainer to say he's not been worth his salary, and not worth keeping around beyond 2012.
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