Allen Park — As the Lions’ kicker competition draws to a close, Giorgio Tavecchio will have more of an opportunity to impress the coaches.
In Friday’s exhibition game against the Jaguars, seventh-round pick Nate Freese and Tavecchio will switch off kicking duties, a change from the first two exhibitions in which Freese handled the first half and Tavecchio the second.
“We’re going to rotate the placekicking duties,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “One will kick maybe the first opportunity, then the next guy will kick the first opportunity. And we’ll go back and forth, so we can get a little bit different evaluation rather than waiting until the second half to give Giorgio a shot. We’re going to do so early on.”
Caldwell also said he doesn’t know whether or not this will be the final game in which the Lions evaluate kickers. NFL teams must trim their roster from 90 to 75 by Aug. 26, but the Lions will likely keep both kickers after that date.
“It’s difficult,” Caldwell said of the decision. “Both guys are kicking fairly well.”
Tavecchio, who went undrafted in 2012, was the more consistent kicker during training camp, but Freese showed improvement as he became more comfortable with long snapper Don Muhlbach and holder Sam Martin.
In last week’s loss to the Raiders, Freese went 1-for-2 on 33-yard extra points. He bounced his first try off the right upright, but he buried a 55-yard field goal he kicked from the dirt at the O.co Coliseum.
Tavecchio, meanwhile, hit his one extra point attempt and a 25-yard field goal.
In the first exhibition against the Browns, Freese hit field goals from 37 and 32 yards while Tavecchio’s only try was a 33-yard extra point, which he made.
“There’s some fairness there, so it gives both guys an opportunity to kick in a portion of the game that’s similar,” Caldwell said of the change this week. “We just think we can probably do a little bit better job evaluating if we do it that way.”
The Lions are hoping to find a long-term replacement for Jason Hanson after veteran David Akers struggled last year.
Freese made all 20 of his field-goal attempts at Boston College last year. Tavecchio lost training camp battles in San Francisco in 2012 and Green Bay in 2013.
In addition to the field-goal change, Martin, the punter, will handle kickoff duties Friday. Tavecchio and Freese kicked off in the exhibition games as a way to save Martin’s leg, but there’s a chance the kicker could still handle that duty over the strong-legged punter.
“Whoever gives us the best opportunity to get the best field position, we’ll utilize,” Caldwell said.