August 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Lions' kicker competition between Nate Freese, Giorgio Tavecchio expected to last through exhibition games

Giorgio Tavecchio has been the most consistent kicker in Lions training camp thus far. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Allen Park — When the Lions drafted Nate Freese in the seventh round of May’s draft, he immediately became the favorite to become the kicker in 2014.

So far in training camp, though, Giorgio Tavecchio, who went undrafted in 2012, has been more consistent than Freese, and coach Jim Caldwell said draft status won’t be the determining factor when the Lions choose their kicker.

“It’s never one of those situations where we strictly look at because a guy was drafted or not drafted, (that’s) how we judge him,” Caldwell said. “If the guy’s an outstanding player, he’s going to play.”

Tavecchio, who spent 2012 camp in San Francisco and 2013 camp in Green Bay, hasn’t missed a kick in a team drill since the second day of camp when he was short on a kick where he said the goalposts were 5 yards back. What he thought was a 49-yarder was actually a 54-yarder. Freese missed the same kick wide left.

On Monday, Tavecchio hit all five of his attempts, including one from 48 yards. Freese went 3-for-5, slipping on a 34-yarder and missing the 48-yarder.

Both players have shown good power, and Freese, who made all 20 field goal attempts at Boston College in 2013, said last week he was still working to improve his comfort level with snapper Don Muhlbach and holder Sam Martin. Tavecchio had a five-month head start after signing a futures deal with the Lions in January.

Freese continues to kick with the first-team field-goal unit, and regardless of what’s happened thus far, the competition will continue through the exhibition games. Caldwell said the team’s data will ultimately determine the winner, but makes and misses aren’t the only factors in the decision the Lions hope will provide them a long-term solution at kicker. How the two kickers handle meetings and other football-related activities will play a role, too.

When 21-year veteran Jason Hanson retired after the 2012 season, the Lions signed veteran David Akers, who was just 19-for-24 in 2013, so finding an upgrade would be key to solidifying a special teams unit that improved greatly with Martin, the punter and kickoff man, last season.

Caldwell also said “never say never” to using Martin on long field goals this season. Martin’s trainers posted a YouTube video of Martin making a 65-yarder in June.

“Coaches are in the business of winning. We don’t win, there’s a problem,” Caldwell said. “Nothing good ever happens when you don’t win. So what we’re going to try to do is get the best player out there playing for us to give us the best chance to win.

“We don’t care where he came from, who he is. And we’re just looking for results, and that’s what counts.”

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
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