2022 marked the start of an improved Chargers special teams unit. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chargers were 16th in the league in special teams by the end of last season, while in 2021 they ended at 28th. Much of this success had to do with their new special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken, new punter J.K. Scott, new gunners like cornerback Deane Leonard, a new return specialist in DeAndre Carter, and solid kickers, new and old. The Chargers went through many kickers last year because, like many other Charger position groups, were riddled with injuries.
This year special teams is getting another new return specialist in rookie wide receiver Derius Davis, and a competition to find a new Chargers kicker. The battle will take place during training camp between Dustin Hopkins and Cameron Dicker.
On Hopkins Earning the Role
Hopkins is currently on a contract until 2025, worth $9 million with $3,520,000 guaranteed. This is his ninth season in the league and his third with the Chargers, as he split time in 2021 with Washington at the beginning of the season and then once released, the Chargers signed him. In 2022, out of the 10 field goals he attempted, he made nine of them, the majority at 30 to 39 yards. The year prior the majority of the field goals made (13) were at 40 to 49 yards, and he had less luck with the ones at 50+ yards, only making two out of the five attempts.
Hopkins is good even under intense pain, as was evident during the Week 6 Broncos game where it was clear his hamstring was inhibiting him, but he made every field goal attempted (four), all at 30 to 39 yards. He has the experience but has also had some injuries, in particular, that hamstring kept him out for the majority of games last year. At 32 he’s on the older side, so it comes down to if the Chargers want someone with experience, who’s steady but could be an injury risk.
On Dicker Earning the Role
Dicker was a wild card going into the 2022 season, as it was his rookie year and he’d been on a couple of teams prior to joining the Chargers. He was signed by the Rams as a free agent and then released in August. He was with the Ravens super briefly before being put on the practice squad of the Eagles in October. He played one game for them then was released later in the month. In November he was signed to the Chargers practice squad and has been with them ever since.
Dicker made the majority of his field goals from 20 to 29 yards (nine) and 30 to 39 yards (seven). When it comes to larger distances, he was less accurate. He made seven of eight field goals at 40 to 49 yards and one of two at 50 to 59 yards. Considering many were saying that Dicker just came off the street to be part of the team, the fact that he was a rookie and put in such high-stakes situations, and performed well, is admirable.
And he’s not to blame for the Chargers losing the Wild Card game, because the fact that they even got to the point where they were relying on one field goal, was ridiculous, considering how far up they were in the first half. The Chargers tendered him during free agency this year because he was consistent and dependable when needed.
Who Should Be The Chargers Kicker?
The Chargers would get more cap savings if they cut Hopkins post-June 1st of next year. According to Over the Cap, they would get a cap savings of $4,750,000 million next year with a cap hit of $800,000. If they cut him this year, the cap savings would only be $1,185,147 with a cap hit of $1.9 million. So there is a money incentive, he’s more experienced, and he does well on 40 to 49-yarders.
On the other hand, I do like Dicker and think they could really work to turn him into someone that could have success in the league. Will he be the next Justin Tucker? No. But he’ll have a space on teams for the next few years if he’s molded well. Overall it’s a tough call, and I’m leaning more toward Hopkins if he can stay healthy, but I’m perfectly happy to put my weight behind Dicker if that’s the way it shapes up after a couple of weeks of camp.