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Kicker Battle A Spot To Watch


It may be flying a little bit under the radar, but there's a tight kicker battle brewing for the Eagles.

Caleb Sturgis, a former fifth-round pick for the Miami Dolphins in 2013, and Cody Parkey an undrafted rookie out of Auburn in 2014, have each booted efficient scoring seasons for the Eagles in the past two years.

The friendly competition between the two goes back even further, though.

Parkey's Tigers got the best of Sturgis' Florida Gators by a score of 17-6 when the two faced-off in college during the 2011 season, but it was Sturgis won the kicking battle connecting on both of his field goals while Parkey had made one of his three kicks. This time around the two are competing for higher stakes- a spot on the Eagles' 53-man roster.

Last season, Sturgis stepped in after Parkey went down early with a groin injury in Week 3. After getting his foot through the door, Sturgis stepped up big for the Eagles, connecting on 18 of his 22 field goal attempts, including two from 50-yards plus.

"When I first got the call I had already been at two workouts, so I just knew that I needed to come in here and do a good job and hopefully they liked me," Sturgis said.

It's hard not to like a kicker that shows up in crunch time. Last November, in a close Week 9 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys with under two minutes to go, Sturgis bombed in a 53-yarder to put the Eagles ahead in an eventual overtime victory. For Sturgis, connecting on kicks like that is all about preparation.

"You do the same three steps every day of your life but there's always something to fix and there's always something to get better at and that's the exciting thing about it," Sturgis said. "Similar to golf, you know, everybody enjoys golfing, kicking's pretty similar. You can always work on little things."

The little things just could ultimately be the difference in Sturgis' competition with Parkey, who put together a record-setting rookie season in 2014. That year, Parkey broke the NFL record for most points scored by a rookie with 150, broke the Eagles single season scoring record, and set the franchise record by drilling four 50-yard field goals in a season. Now, Parkey is hooked on reverting back to being the big time scorer he was.

"I worked my butt off doing everything you can think of to get back on this field," Parkey said. "It feels really good to be back out here just having fun, enjoying it."

Parkey intends to pick up where he left off two years ago. After enjoying such a historic rookie season, he admitted being sidelined for most of his sophomore season took a mental toll on him.

"I had to come out here every day at practice and watch someone else do my job. It stinks," Parkey said. "Mentally, it was tough to really get my leg going at first and trust it but right now it feels really good and I'm excited for what's to come."

Although Parkey earned a trip to the Pro Bowl following his rookie year, he doesn't believe his success entitles him to the position. Instead, the Jupiter, Florida native would much rather earn the role.

"I want to earn it, I really do. I don't want it to be handed to me," Parkey said.

Sturgis and Parkey will now have to prove themselves in game action, which Parkey knows could make or break his chances of winning the starting job.

"That's going to be the real audition, gamedays," Parkey said. "It's really important to hit kicks in practice but gamedays are where it's make or break."

As for the kicking rotation on Thursday night, head coach Doug Pederson refrained from going too in depth, but he did not that both players will get their opportunity to prove themselves.

"They are both going to kick," Pederson said. "There isn't really one guy that is going to get any more kicks than the other. They are both going to kick."

No matter how the situation eventually plays out over the next few weeks, Parkey and Sturgis are ready to put their best foot forward.

"We work together," Parkey said. "We try to get each other better because at the end of the day it's about both of us having a job in the NFL at the end of this camp and I think that's very doable."

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