Janikowski has rebounded from some early misses to team with punter Michael Dickson and give Seattle a big advantage in the kicking game this season.
Seahawks placekicker Sebastian Janikowski was named the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday after hitting three field goals against Carolina, including the game-winner as time ran out. The award not only illustrated his continuing turnaround from some early-season struggles, but also how Seattle has gotten much-needed improvement in its kicking game in 2018.
Kicking issues cost the Seahawks dearly in 2017 when Blair Walsh had critical misses that helped turn the tide in three games (Washington, Atlanta, Arizona). This led to media and fans second-guessing the team’s decision to not try and re-sign Stephen Hauschka following the 2016 season. The misses also left fans and Seahawks players and coaches alike wondering how the 2017 season would have turned out had Walsh just made another kick or two.
While Jon Ryan was one of the team’s most popular players and currently ranks as the best overall punter in team history, the Seahawks felt they could use an upgrade in that department, as well, particularly after long punt returns by Jacksonville and the Rams helped lead to late-season Seattle defeats.
Seattle aggressively went about fixing both spots. The Seahawks signed kicker Jason Myers to a free agent contract within 72 hours of the end of the season, signed Janikowski on April 13 after he became available when the Raiders decided not to re-sign him, and then moved up in the draft to take Dickson — who last season won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in college football — in the fifth round.
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Once Janikowski was signed, complete with a $600,000 bonus, while Myers had no guaranteed money, Janikowski was regarded as the favorite for the job. The team ultimately cut Ryan and Myers after the second preseason game.
Turns out Seattle, would have been fine if it had stuck with Myers, who has revived his career with the Jets. Myers is 23 of 25 on field goals and 5 of 6 from beyond 50, including a 56-yarder, and made NFL history last week when he became the first kicker to ever make five field goals of 55 yards or longer in a season.
Myers is only 27 and his season with the Jets shows he may yet have a long future in the NFL.
But Seattle opted for what it felt was the surer thing in 40-year-old Janikowski, a veteran of 19 NFL seasons who is 10th all-time in field goals made. After a few early hiccups — including a costly miss in the opener at Denver — he has responded.
Since missing his first two field goal tries in a game at Arizona on Sept 30, Janikowski has converted 13 of 14 field goal attempts, including a game-winning 52-yarder as time ran out against the Cardinals and then the game-winning 31-yarder as time ran out at Carolina. He had earlier made kicks of 33 and 30 against the Panthers. Janikowski is also 33-for-33 on PATs, making Seattle one of just eight teams not to miss one yet this season. Janikowski’s 33 are the second-most among all kickers who are perfect on PATs (New England’s Stephen Gostkowski is 34/34).
Each of Janikowski’s game-winners this season came after the opposing kicker had missed a field goal that could have put Seattle behind — Arizona’s Phil Dawson misfired from 45 with 1:50 left and Carolina’s Graham Gano missed from 52 with 1:45 left. Seattle also benefitted from a 46-yard miss by Green Bay’s Mason Crosby in a game Seattle won 27-24 last week.
Turn one of those scenarios around and, as the Seahawks found last year, things would look quite different.
For the season, Seattle foes are 15 of 21 on field goals, the fourth-worst percentage in the NFL.
Janikowski, meanwhile, is now 15 of 19 for the season (Walsh, who remains a free agent, was 21/29 last season).
As for Dickson, his impact continues to be vast each week even if he has set such a high bar that it now can almost go unnoticed.
Dickson punted just three times last week, and two were boomers of 62 and 56, while the other was a 40-yarder out of the end zone. Seattle did allow 19 return yards. Still, Seattle had a net punting average of 46.3, with the first two kicks coming from the Seattle 18 and the Seattle 4 and forcing the Panthers to start at their own 25 and 35 in a game where every yard mattered.
Dickson leads the NFL with a 44.0 net punting average this season that and far exceeds Ryan’s 37.9 from last season. Dickson has 51 punts, so essentially that translates to 300 extra yards in field position Seattle has this season via its punting game.
Dickson was also named a Player of the Week, following the Detroit contest, which he helped secure with his famous “fake punt” run out of the end zone.
It’s the first time since 2010 that Seattle has had both its kicker and punter named player of the week in the same season. That year, Pete Carroll’s first with the team, Ryan and Olindo Mare each won it once. So did returner Leon Washington. Perhaps it’s fitting, given a team that went 7-9 but somehow won its division to make the playoffs, that those three were the only players to win Player of the Week honors for Seattle that season.