For the majority of the past 8 seasons, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t have to worry much about the kicker position. That changed this offseason, when Greg Zuerlein, former Pro Bowler and 1st team All-Pro, as well as the 2nd leading kicker in franchise history, signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
While many fans were sad to see him leave, the move made sense from the team’s perspective. Last season, Greg the Leg made just 24/33 (72.7%) of his field goal attempts, the second-lowest mark of his career. He had struggled with injuries on and off over the past few years, so the Rams decided to let him walk. His departure leaves a large hole in the special teams unit.
To mitigate the loss, the Rams brought in 3 kickers in the offseason to battle for GZ’s job: Sam Sloman (7th round draft pick), Austin MacGinnis (free agency), and Lirim Hajrullahu (free agency by way of the CFL). While each kicker has potential, only one of them can win the job. This begs the question, “Who will the Rams go with?”
Analysis of Sloman
Sam Sloman was drafted in the 7th round of the 2020 draft from Miami (OH). He finished his college career making 112/115 (97.4%) of his extra point attempts (PATs) and 49/62 (79%) of his field goal attempts (FGs). The Rams took a low-risk flier on him, considering most 7th round picks don’t last long in the league.
While Sloman impressed early on in training camp, he has slipped off a bit as of late. On August 22nd, the Rams held a scrimmage in their new SoFi stadium (which looks gorgeous, by the way). Sloman made just 3/5 FGs, missing from 38 and 50 yards.
Considering the other kickers performed better in the scrimmage, Sloman will need to step up to win the favor of the coaches.
Analysis of MacGinnis
MacGinnis has a similar background with Sloman. Both were 3 year starters in college, with MacGinnis starring for the Kentucky Wildcats.
When you compare the college careers of MacGinnis and Sloman, their numbers are eerily similar.
102/104 (98.1%) PAT
51/64 (79.7%) FG
255 points scored
112/115 (97.4%) PAT
49/62 (79%) FG
259 points scored
MacGinnis was also an All-SEC kicker in 2014, and is 9th in SEC history in FG%. After going undrafted in 2018, MacGinnis tried out for several teams, and was eventually signed by the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football.
Unfortunately, the AAF was cancelled midway into the season. MacGinnis then signed with the Dallas Renegades of the XFL. Before the untimely cancellation of the XFL season, MacGinnis was 10/10 on FGs, and was one of two XFL to make all of his attempts. This impressed the Rams enough to sign him in the offseason.
He has gotten the least attention of the 3 kickers so far, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be taken seriously. He has more experience than Sloman, and is younger than Hajrullahu. MacGinnis made 4/5 of his tries in the SoFi scrimmage, including one from 50 yards out.
Analysis of Hajrullahu
Out of all the Rams’ kickers, Lirim Hajrullahu (leer-im ha-roo-lah-hoo) is unquestionably the most decorated and experienced. The 29-year old was a star in the CFL from 2014-2019, where he made 239/287 (83.3%) FGs. He has shown that he can be clutch when called upon, nailing this field goal to win the Grey Cup for the Toronto Argonauts. (Skip to 4:20 to see Hajrullahu’s kick).
While this is quite impressive, Hajrullahu also brings his punting skills to the table. In addition to being the starting kicker, Hajrullahu also punted for every team he was with, boasting an impressive career average of 44.1 yards and a long punt of 83 yards. He likely won’t ever have to punt, considering the Rams have one of the best punters in NFL history in All-Pro Johnny Hekker, but it’s still nice to know they have that option if needed.
In the aforementioned SoFi scrimmage, Hajrullaho was the only kicker to make all of his attempts, going 5/5 with a long of 50 yards. He seems to be adjusting well from the CFL to the NFL.
While Sloman and MacGinnis are younger and sport plenty of potential, I believe Hajrullahu will ultimately end up as the starting kicker. I know I stated in a recent article that I thought Sloman would win the job, but Hajrillahu’s play has convinced me that he’s the best man for the job. His experience in the CFL combined with his performance in training camp speak for themselves, and he’s already a fan favorite among Rams Twitter.
In the end, I think Sean McVay will go with the age, experience and versatility of Lirim.