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Joey Slye, Michael Badgley embracing kicker competition


Kicker isn't normally a position that comes up when discussing training camp battles. 

But while the competition at quarterback between Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett has gotten most of the attention, the struggle for who will be scoring field goals and extra points for the Washington Commanders is perhaps one of the most important for the team in 2023. 

After nearly two years of having Joey Slye as their kicker, the Commanders signed veteran Michael Badgley one day before the start of training camp. The Commanders have not been shy about the situation with head coach Ron Rivera saying in a press conference the following day that "I'm expecting competition. I'm expecting to bring the best out of our guys." 

Both players have embraced the situation. 

"It's a good opportunity," Badgley said. "You go into any type of competition...the same way. Just go out there and kick as well as you can and prove people wrong and just have fun with it."

Badgley, who was most recently with the Detroit Lions, has been in the NFL since 2018 and spent time with the Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. He has made 81.7% of his 115 career field goal attempts, and he is also coming off one of his best single-season performances, as he hit 20 of his 24 field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. He made 22 of his 25 field goal attempts from 49 yards and in.

But an area of Badgley's game that has impressed Rivera is his consistency on extra points, so much so that the head coach brought it up in his first press conference of camp. He has nailed 96.9% of his career extra point attempts, including a perfect 33-of-33 in 2022.

"He's a very accomplished player," Rivera said.

In many ways, Badgley is the complete opposite of Slye, who is known for his leg strength. While they are similar in accuracy (82.9% compared to 81.7% in favor of Slye), Slye's is far better on kicks of at least 50 yards. He's hit 17-of-27 kicks from that distance (63%), whereas Badgley is 5-of-13.

Even their methods of kicking are drastically different. Slye likes the ball "a little bit more forward," according to holder Tress Way, and Badgley likes the ball tilted to the side. As a result, the ball flies off their feet differently; Slye's kicks spin faster and higher, and Badgley's kicks have a slower rotation.

Way, who has gotten an up-close look at the competition, said specialist competitions are like "playing somebody one-on-one on a golf course."

"They're both doing great," Way said. "They're both nailing a lot of kicks, but as a holder in that regard, you just gotta do what you can to help them out."

Slye is streaky when it comes to extra points, though, and last year was a prime example of that. He hit 85.7% of his PATs in 2022, and for his career, he has only gone above 90% in a season once in his career.

Slye knows that has been an issue.

"Obviously my PATs have been a topic of discussion," Slye said. "I just need to be more consistent when it comes to those. For me, just consistency in my steps, set up, everything like that has been something I've been progressing since I was a rookie."

Slye has been in the league long enough to know that players experience competition all the time. He's won competitions with kickers in the past with the other player getting cut; he's also been cut himself and not been in a competition. In his experience, the best way to handle it is to be as consistent as possible.

"I just go out and handle my own business and kind of let all the cards fall where they may," Slye said. "I know the confidence I have in myself and my abilities and if I'm at my best, I feel like I could be one of the best."

The Washington Commanders were back on the field from the second practice of Week 3. Check out the best photos from the action this morning.

And that approach has Slye confident in what he can accomplish in 2023.

"I feel like I'm peaking right now," Slye said. "I feel like I'm kicking really well and having a really good offseason. I feel like I'm poised to have a really good year."

Slye is first on the depth chart, although both players will get their opportunity to prove themselves during the team's three preseason games. So far, the competition has done exactly what Rivera hoped it would.

"It's been very good," Rivera said. "We've got to take everything into consideration. Everything from the operation to the kick. And that's probably the biggest thing that we've done. But I think the competition has been good for both of them."

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