Rams rookie kickers earning rave reviews

Dan Arkush
Pro Football Weekly
NFC West Spin cycle: Rams fortify status as divisional heavyweights

Plenty of eyebrows were raised in Rams Nation when new head coach Jeff Fisher decided on a pair of rookies to handle the team’s placekicking and punting duties.

But perhaps the Rams’ most pleasant surprise so far this season has been the impressive performances of seventh-round rookie PK Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein and undrafted rookie P Johnny Hekker, particularly Zuerlein, who was a perfect 8-of-8 in the first three games, including a 56-yard field goal in the Week Three game at Chicago that was one yard short of a team record.

“He’s been an instant hit, definitely the team’s most reliable weapon,” one team insider said of Zuerlein. “His startling numbers at Missouri Western attracted a lot of attention (24-of-25 FGs, including a Division II-record 21 in a row and nine field goals longer than 50 yards last season); there were definitely some other teams looking at him.”

It wasn’t long before Zuerlein started making observers at practices routinely stop what they were doing to watch his majestic cannon shots sail over the crossbar. Zuerlein’s PK predecessor, Josh Brown, was also a 50-yard-plus machine most of his career in St. Louis.

“His leg is stronger than Brown’s, maybe the strongest I’ve seen," the insider said of Zuerlein. “I’ve seen him make a 64-yarder in practice. There was room to spare on his 56-yarder against the Bears.”

Hekker, meanwhile, has shown some growing pains.

“He was actually comically inconsistent with some of his directional punts this offseason,” the source said. “There was some skepticism with him because there were other punters available with better college numbers.

“But he’s been good. He’s gotten steadily better with his directional kicking. He's got a strong leg, and they just feel that, if they can fine-tune him, he could be a keeper."