The 33-yard extra point was one of the big stories of the 2015-16 season, as players, fans, coaches, and announcers enjoyed griping about kickers missing chip shots at a higher rate than before despiteconcern that they are too good. In particular, Buffalo Bills fans directed their ire towards kicker Dan Carpenter, who missed six extra points on the season, including five in the last eight games. Can Carpenter bounce back and get himself back on track in 2016? Chuck Zodda emerges from the ITP film cave to discuss his findings.
Carpenter is an eight-year veteran, first getting a look at NFL action with the Miami Dolphins in 2008. He spent five years in the warm Miami sun, compiling an uninspiring 81.0% accuracy on field goals, 2.1% below the league average over that time. While Carpenter’s average attempt was from 38.46 yards compared to the league average of 36.89 yards during that time, there was nothing statistically suggesting that he might make the jump to the next level or was capable of more.
Carpenter bounced around training camps in the summer of 2013, getting cut by both the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets. But after a groin injury to Dustin Hopkins prior to the start of the 2013 season, Carpenter signed with theBills and has spent the past three seasons in Buffalo. Over that time period, Carpenter made 89.1% of his field goals, besting the NFL average mark of 85.0%, good for ninth out of 29 qualifying kickers (with at least 48 attempts over three years). He was strong on field goals from 30-39 yards as well, making 92.9% of his kicks compared to 91.3% for the league.
But extra points in 2015 were a different story. Carpenter was not just bad from the football equivalent of the free throw line; he was terrible. His 85% hit rate on extra points was 31st out of 32 kickers, with only rookie Jason Myers of the Jacksonville Jaguars performing worse. With five misses occurring in the last eight games of the year, this is the type of issue that could linger into the offseason and cause further issues in 2016.
So why did things go so horribly wrong from 33 yards last year, and can Carpenter bounce back in 2016?
Carpenter started the 2015 season kicking extra points from the left hash mark. He was actually remarkably good from this location, going 23-for-24 to start the season before misses against the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs in November. From there, Carpenter moved to the center of the field for his attempts, and the results were not pretty. He was just 9-for-12 from this location to finish the year, and a look at his mechanics from this spot reveals why.
Facing the Houston Texans, Carpenter had four extra point attempts. The following images show his first-quarter make on the left, and his fourth-quarter miss on the right:
In both frames, Carpenter aligns himself in identical fashion to start. His head is focused directly down at his eventual plant location, with his front foot pointing in the same direction, and back foot offset and pointing slightly behind his holder. The identical setup means it is not an initial alignment issue causing the inaccuracy, so this can be crossed off the list of possible issues.
Later, we see Carpenter midway through his approach, just after his jab step as his second step occurs: