Kickers can be difficult to predict, with variance among the most accurate kickers from year to year. Chuck Zodda reviewed the tape on rising star Chandler Catanzaro, whose big leg and clean mechanics put him on track to join the upper echelon of kickers.
Chandler Catanzaro went undrafted out of Clemson in 2014 despite a career in which he missed just two field goals ‒one each in his junior and senior seasons. The Arizona Cardinals signed him to compete with veteran Jay Feely in the 2014 preseason and he proceeded to beat out the veteran, earning the starting spot. From his first game, Catanzaro displayed many of the traits that NFL teams desire from their placekickers.
Just Getting Started
Facing the San Diego Chargers, Catanzaro lines up for a 44-yard kick from the center of the field:
He has a simple pre-kick routine, taking three steps back and two steps to his left as he eyes his target. His initial alignment appears similar to Stephen Gostkowski, with his hips largely facing the target. This is a key difference from kickers such as Steven Hauschka, who starts with a very open stance that generates a massive amount of rotational energy.
At the snap, Catanzaro begins his approach with a small jab step with his left foot:
Early in his rookie season, his jab step was slow and started almost immediately after the ball is snapped. However, as Catanzaro has become more comfortable, he has found a quicker rhythm with this jab step that helps to create a smoother approach.
The heel of his plant foot is aligned with the ball, with a classic form as he swings his right leg. The location of this plant gives him the ability to clear his hips with ease, allowing him to maintain momentum through his leg swing as well as keep his hips behind the ball to generate easy height:
The ball explodes off his foot, gaining height quickly. His ball flight consistently shows heights of 13-14 feet at the line of scrimmage, and profiles as a kicker who should be significantly above-average in avoiding blocked kicks because of this trajectory. To this point in his career, Catanzaro has yet to have a kick blocked.
As Catanzaro comes through the ball, his plant foot comes off the ground slightly as he takes a beautiful skip step through his target, with his left knee bent as he follows through the ball. This is one of the cleanest skip steps in the NFL, allowing him to maintain his power through the entire swing. He also generates easy power with this swing and should have no problem connecting from long-distance. Although Catanzaro is only 2-for-4 from beyond 50 yards in his short NFL career, he has all of the tools to be among the league-leaders from this distance as he gains experience and builds a larger sample size.
One minor issue that Catanzaro displays on a number of his kicks is a slight lack of balance that can be an problem when kicking from the right hash. Because of the power in his swing, he has the same issue that plagues many right-footed kickers as his momentum can fall off slightly to his right:
As shown by the red line, Catanzaro’s center of gravity falls slightly off to the side after his skip step. While this is not a major concern, it is something that he will need to address in order to make sure it does not develop into a larger problem down the road.
No Sophomore Slump
Now nearly through his second season as the Arizona kicker, Catanzaro has refined his technique while still keeping many of his strengths.
Facing the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13 of the 2015 season, Catanzaro lines up for a 47-yard blast from the left hash:
He takes the same jab step he showed at the outset of his career, but is quicker to the ball, allowing him to begin his approach slightly later and create a smoother path.
His hips are aimed directly through the uprights, and his right leg is ready to explode through the ball on his plant. This is a great power power position for a kicker, with everything in flawless alignment as he makes contact:
Catanzaro drills the kick, with everything flowing through the target as he hits the ball. His plant foot ends up with his heel on the hash, giving him the familiar platform to generate both height and power on the ball, with his hips aligned perfectly through his follow-through.
After his skip step, his weight is still through the target as he finishes his motion cleanly:
Right Side, Wrong Side
However, despite Catanzaro’s talent and mechanics, he does suffer from occasional problems on the right hash due to the rotational energy generated by his kick. Lining up from 49 yards against the Seattle Seahawks, he steps off his approach cleanly:
As Catanzaro plants, he begins to clear his hips, with his leg loaded behind his body. He is pointed directly through the target at this point, and at this frame, there appear to be no issues.
His body is now pointed outside the upright as he strikes the ball, and this will prove to be his undoing. This is not a problem that is unique to Catanzaro, as the soccer-style kick employed by modern NFL kickers generally produces higher accuracy, but can cause problems from the right hash associated with controlling this energy from time to time.
As we saw during his kick, his momentum continues outside the upright once the kick is away, with his body-lean and center of gravity taking him away from the target. The ball sails just outside the right upright as Catanzaro records a rare miss.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Catanzaro has one other issue that impacts his accuracy. While he is generally very precise with his plant foot, he has occasional lapses that affect his accuracy. One such example occurred against the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Unlike his other kicks where the heel of his plant foot is directly in line with the ball, he is several inches ahead on this kick. This has the effect of placing his hips too far forward, preventing him from getting proper clearance as he rotates. This typically has one of two effects – a low trajectory, or a kick wide to the right, similar to a push slice in golf. Catanzaro ends up with a low kick that actually ends up wide to the right. While the high angle does not show the reason, ground-level film makes clear the reason for the low hooking kick:
Catanzaro jams himself on the kick, but in order to compensate for it, he speeds up his leg and whips it in front of his hips too quickly. The result is a strike on his ankle as opposed to the hard bone on the top of the foot. This is a classic mistake when a kicker’s timing is off and his leg gets ahead of his body. While Catanzaro has not had any other misses with this specific contact point, he has seen additional misses due to a forward plant foot.
Catanzaro’s mechanics are typically clean and efficient, with little wasted motion. He generates easy power and great height on his kicks, and despite the two minor issues that infrequently cause him problems, he generally is able to maintain his mechanics on a consistent basis. Right-hash kicks will continue to be a work in progress as he squares away his post-kick balance, but he has all the tools to be an elite kicker in the NFL, and should be a name that we hear for years to come.
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Chuck Zodda knows the importance of staying in your lane, how to fake a punt return, the humanity of punters, proper placekicking technique and the Jets.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.