When the Saints re-signed Shayne Graham to a contract earlier this offseason and they neglected to draft or sign anyone as an undrafted rookie free agent, I assumed the job was going to pretty much be handed to the veteran. All signs point towards that, and while he struggled under mighty weather conditions in Seattle in the Saints final 2013 season playoff game, he was also a hero the week before in Philadelphia. Graham is an accurate kicker without much of a leg the Saints can rely on inside of 48 yards. But there is some competition for him in camp and one that he maybe shouldn’t take lightly. Derek Dimke has a pretty good track record, so don’t rule out his chances.
I was surprised to see how accurate Dimke has been in his career. He’s the all time most accurate kicker in Illinois history, going 39 for 46 (84.7%) and we know the weather in Illinois is often far from ideal. He also never missed an extra point in 89 tries in his college career and he has longs of 52 in college and 54 in high school.
Since going undrafted Dimke has bounced from the Lions to the Jets, then Bucs, and now Saints. While he’s yet to win a job in any of those organizations he’s gone 8 for 9 in preseason field goal attempts. On some level you’re left wondering what he’s done in practice to prevent him from landing an NFL job but the reality is getting a job is really hard for a relatively unknown young kicker. There’s only 32 spots in the NFL. In Detroit he was battling Jason Hanson, so he had no chance from the start. Last year he battled Nick Folk (who went 33-36 on the year in New York) and in Tampa he battled two successful and well known NFL veterans in Rian Lindell and Lawrence Tynes. Beating out any of those guys would have been a shock, but losing out on an NFL job to them certainly doesn’t mean Dimke can’t cut it in the NFL.
The odds are squarely in favor of Graham being the Saints kicker. But don’t rule out Dimke giving him a run for his money here. I think if all things are fair and they come out about even in preseason, Graham has earned the Saints trust based on the Eagles playoff game and will get the job. But if he is struggling and Dimke looks solid, based on his track record in college and preseason it’s pretty clear he’s an accurate kicker. And the Saints could use one of those.