Rhys Lloyd is hoping to land a job as Carolina's kickoff specialist - and right now there's a good chance he will.
Original Panther John Kasay, who turns 39 later this year, has been one of the more consistent field-goal kickers in the NFL over the years - he was 24 of 28 last year -- but within the past few years his distance on kickoffs has noticeably decreased.
Many of Kasay's kicks that once sailed close to the goal line and beyond weren't even reaching the 10-yard line last season. Five of his kickoffs bounced out of bounds, by rule giving the opponent starting field position at their own 40-yard line. Punter Jason Baker, who has shared some of the kickoff duties in the past, has struggled as well.
Lloyd is a possible solution.
The Panthers added him to their roster late last season and activated him for the season finale against Tampa Bay. It took him only 60 minutes to match Carolina's entire season total in touchbacks, knocking two balls into the end zone that weren't returned. Lloyd's two touchbacks kept the Panthers from finishing last in the league in that category.
By comparison, Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski led the NFL in touchbacks in 2007 with 22.
Impressed, the Panthers quickly signed Lloyd to a two-year contract that runs through 2009.
Given how important field position is in the NFL, Panthers coach John Fox is now faced with the possibility of having to keep Lloyd on the 53-man roster as a kickoff specialist, something NFL coaches prefer not to do because it robs them of a roster spot that could be used for a positional player like a wide receiver, linebacker or defensive back.
"This isn't a novel thought. There are a lot of people in the league that carry two kickers," Fox said. "It's an option, just like anybody else on the roster. If that's going to make us better, that's who we'll keep."
So Lloyd will basically be fighting his own personal battle this summer when the Panthers reconvene at Wofford College for the start of training camp on July 25.
If he proves he can put the ball in the end zone on a consistent basis then Lloyd probably gets a roster spot.
"Obviously John is here and John will continue to do the job he's been doing," Lloyd said. "I'll just kind of fit in as they need me. It's a good opportunity and hopefully I can succeed at it."