Rams sign Matt Gay to try to solve their kicking ‘struggle’ – Press Enterprise

The Rams keep searching left and right for someone who can kick a ball straight.

The hunt for Greg Zuerlein’s replacement continued Wednesday when, as expected, Matt Gay became the fifth kicker to sign a Rams contract this year.

Gay, 26, a Utah alum who kicked for Tampa Bay in 2019 and was on the Indianapolis practice squad this season, must clear COVID-19 screenings before joining the team.

Either Gay or Austin MacGinnis, the former XFL kicker who is on the Rams’ practice squad, will make his Rams debut against the Buccaneers in Tampa on Monday night.

The move became necessary when an ankle injury in the Rams’ win over Seattle on Sunday forced kicker Kai Forbath to go on injured reserve Wednesday, along with tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) and safety Taylor Rapp (knee).

But it might have been made even if Forbath were healthy.

The former UCLA kicker made a mess of a field-goal attempt and missed an extra point wide-left in two games since being signed to replace rookie Samuel Sloman. Sloman was released three weeks ago after missing three PATs and three field goals, getting three kicks blocked. He also angered coaches by failing to carry out plans on kickoffs.

Sloman had beaten out MacGinnis and former CFL kicker Lirim Hajrullahu in training camp.

Although the problem hasn’t directly cost the Rams (6-3) a game, their kickers rank 29th in the NFL in both field-goal (71.4%) and PAT (84.6%) accuracy, and they haven’t connected on a field goal longer than 42 yards.

Gay was better than that with 77.1% of field-goal attempts and 89.6% of PATs in 2019, including a 58-yarder.

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Then there’s Zuerlein, now with Dallas. Zuerlein has been better than all of the above — 88.5% and 88.2%, with a 59-yarder — since the Rams let him sign with the Cowboys in April for $7.5 million over three years. Zuerlein spent eight seasons in L.A., earning an All-Pro honor and kicking an NFC title-winning field goal.

Despite punter Johnny Hekker’s sometimes-spectacular efforts, the Rams’ special teams under coordinator John Bonamego are rated No. 29 in the league by FootballOutsiders.com.

Monday, McVay said lack of confidence in his kicker affects play-calling, and sounded nostalgic for Zuerlein.

“It’s a big deal,” said McVay, who said the Gay signing and Whitworth, Rapp and Forbath IR moves were coming. “Sometimes you don’t realize how good you have it until you don’t anymore, and I think that’s the honest answer. I think it’s been a struggle.

“Both Sam and Kay are competing to the best of their ability, but it hasn’t worked out.”

On to plan C.