Seth Marler considers himself the underdog in his competition with Josh Scobee for the Jaguars kicking job, which will begin in earnest this Saturday when the Jaguars open their preseason schedule.
"I feel after the year Josh had, it's his job to lose," Marler said on Thursday following a morning special teams practice. "I think both of us are hitting the ball great right now. Our field goals are good. My kickoffs from a year ago to now have gotten extremely better and Josh is one of the best kickoff guys in the league."
Through spring drills and the first two weeks of training camp, Marler and Scobee are largely even in their head-to-head battle. Neither assumed an advantage in last Friday's scrimmage and practice has revealed nothing more than the possibility the Jaguars have two NFL-caliber kickers on their roster.
The preseason games will decide the issue. Marler nods in agreement. He knows Saturday's game against the Dolphins is one of possibly four chances he'll have to re-claim the job he surrendered to Scobee last year, or interest a team in need of a kicker.
"You have to do what's best for you. I'd love to stay in Jacksonville but, if they go with Josh, I'd love to play for another team because I feel I'm an NFL kicker," Marler said.
He was the Jaguars' incumbent kicker when training camp opened a year ago. Marler, however, was coming off a spring that was troubled by a persistent quad muscle pull. Then, in the first week of training camp, he tore what was left of the quad.
Marler was put on the injured reserve list and the kicking job fell to Scobee, a fifth-round pick from Louisiana Tech. Scobee used the opportunity to establish himself as one of the top young kickers in the game, as Marler watched and healed. It wasn't until the final week of the regular season that Marler kicked a ball again, at the request of special teams coach Pete Rodriguez. At first, Marler was anxious, but the ball rocketed off his foot. He was back.
A depression remains in Marler's quad muscle where the tore occurred, but he has suffered no setbacks. His leg is back at full strength and mentally he's stronger than ever.
"In my rookie year, I started out not missing a kick, then a couple of bad-luck things happened and there's that snowball effect. You kind of lose confidence," Marler said.
He was inconsistent. He'd split the uprights, then give his head coach a splitting headache with a senseless miss from point-blank range. The kid was swimming in water too deep for his skill level.
"My mental approach is night and day compared to what it was then. Coach Del Rio talks all of the time about being a pro and I don't think I became a pro until last year," Marler said.
Now, he's ready to audition his talents for the Jaguars and any other team in the league who would watch. This is the preseason. This is Marler's proving ground.