Jets’ kicking woes remain unsolved after Alex Kessman’s misses
The second kick traveled off of Alex Kessman’s foot similar to how the first one did. He tucked his head, he stepped toward the ball, made contact with his right cleat and then watched as it tailed further and further left — curling away from the upright completely.
With three minutes left in the first quarter, the Jets had just scored their second touchdown, this time on a 1-yard quarterback run by Zach Wilson, to pull back in front of the Eagles by five. But that’s where the score stayed after Kessman missed his second extra point of the day.
“Just gotta make them,” Kessman said. “It’s what I do for a living, and I gotta make those kicks. There’s no excuses.”
The Jets’ 33-18 loss to the Eagles on Sunday contained a porous defense and strides by Wilson, and it also contained a reminder that their kicking problem remains unsolved. Kessman’s pair of misses thrust more uncertainty into their kicker position after they made the switch from Matt Ammendola this past week, with empty opportunities still emerging even after pivoting to the team’s eighth different kicker since 2017.
“I gotta control what I can control,” Kessman said. “If they send me out there to kick, I go out there and kick. Doesn’t matter where from, what time. I go out there and do my job, and I didn’t do my job today. Plain and simple. … I’m not gonna let two kicks define me and the kicker I am.”
But when a team’s kicking position sits in flux, that’s exactly what happens. Sample sizes become smaller because there’s an increased desperation for a solution. The Jets released Ammendola on Saturday after he went 13 of 19 on field goals, and 14 of 15 on extra points, and pivoted to Kessman following a competition at practice this past week. Ammendola won the job out of training camp but missed another field goal against Houston last week, while Kessman, an undrafted rookie out of Pittsburgh, originally signed with the Panthers before landing on the Jets’ practice squad Nov. 23.
Kessman only missed four extra points and made 72 percent of his field goals in college, impressing special teams coach Brant Boyer with “real solid leg talent.” But after Wilson hit Elijah Moore for a 3-yard touchdown on their first drive of the game, the ball started hooking almost immediately after it left his foot. The second extra-point attempt, nine minutes later, did the same.
It left Jets head coach Robert Saleh in a position where he went for a two-point conversion after their third touchdown instead of turning back to Kessman. They scored on that drive by going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line instead of kicking the short field goal, too.
And when the ugliness of the loss settled — one defined by porous defense amid strides from their rookie quarterback — the kicking problem remained. Ammendola doesn’t clear waivers until Monday at 4 p.m., handing Saleh another positional decision, and another attempt at finding the elusive solution, in his near future.
“We got someone else in the building,” Saleh said, “and we’ll just keep going until something works.”