In a season of more low points than high ones, Connor Barth provided us with the biggest of them all last week. Our lil' buddy banged through a 47-yard FG, culminating an incredible comeback and catapulting the Bucs to victory and his teammates off the sidelines in triumph to mob the poor fellow.
Actually, Connor Barth is no stranger to making clutch kicks with the game on the line. As a freshman at UNC, he kicked a game-winning 42 yarder against the Miami Hurricanes as time expired to upset the 4th-ranked Hurricanes in Chapel Hill, 31-28.
As is the case with many professional kickers, Barth didn't find a permanent home with his first team. Last season he kicked in 10 games for the Kansas City Chiefs, hitting 10 of 12 kicks with a long of 45. One of his two misses came from beyond 50 yards, with only one unexpected miss coming in the 30-39 yard range. Pretty solid. However, the Chiefs decided to take a different route, settling on former SC Gamecock Ryan Succop as their placekicker.
Since finally landing with the Bucs, Barth has made a positive impact with the team. In his second game as a Buc, he blasted 3 FGs of 50+ yards at Miami, which kept the Bucs within striking distance... and likely victorious had our defense not gone with the "ole" package in the final minute of the game. As Niko noted before, his few misses have been very close, so he's not looking like a seriously-rattled Mike Vanderjagt circa 2006 with some badly-missing kicks. What's more, his kickoffs have helped the Bucs maintain an NFL-best 18.9 yards per return for opposing kickoff return units. The Bucs currently sit at 9th in the NFC with 9 touchbacks, which is rather mediocre. However, 6 of those 9 touchbacks have come since Barth took over at the midpoint of the season. He might have had more, had the Bucs had more than 2 or 3 opportunities to kickoff against the Jets, Saints (1st game), and at Carolina.
I could go on, but why? We have some great video from Niko to carry the day...
So I put it to you... do you like what you've seen from Barth so far? Has he been consistent enough to earn your trust as this team's long-term place kicker? Do you need to see more before passing judgment? Do you like what Barth has done on kickoffs, or would you rather see the Bucs do what the Cowboys did and get a rocket-legged David Buehler-type guy in here to specifically handle kickoffs and pound the ball into the end zone (which, however, would burn a spot on the 53-man roster)?