Training Camp Battle: Connor Barth vs Andy Phillips

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 28: Andy Phillips
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 28: Andy Phillips /

In our training camp battle series, we take a closer look at kicker where Andy Phillips challenges veteran Connor Barth.

Having a good kicker can be the difference between going 10-6 and making the playoffs or 8-8 and being stuck in NFL purgatory. The Chicago Bears knew that well, after years of being spoiled by kicker Robbie Gould.

Last season, after a difficult 2015 season for Gould, the Bears decided to part ways with their long-time kicker and brought in a cheaper option in Connor Barth. While the money freed up was used to sign Josh Sitton who is a great value for the Bears’ offensive line, the results at kicker with Barth were not good.

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Barth connected on only 18 of 23 field goals, good for only 78%, and he was only 4 for 7 at 40 yards and out. You simply can’t have that type of uncertainty at kicker from that distance.

Barth is serviceable at best and it’s no wonder why he’s been on three different rosters the last three years. He is only a stop-gap kicker. He’s the kicker your team signs until they can find a better kicker. Could that kicker be Andy Phillips?

Phillips was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist and was named second team Pac-12. He had a solid career at Utah and was slightly more accurate than Barth outside of 40 yards connecting on 7 of 10 field goals.

This job is really Phillips’ to win or lose. The Bears know what they have in Barth, but they don’t know what they have in Phillips. If Phillips shows the ability to get kickoffs consistently in the end zone and shows solid accuracy with his leg, the Bears will almost certainly go with the younger cheaper option that they can control for 4 years if they wish. In essence, a camp “tie” will go to Phillips.

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If Barth proves to be the better option, the Bears won’t make their special teams suffer by crossing their fingers with the rookie, but the Bears certainly hope Phillips is more than a camp leg and someone who can be a special teams asset for them at least for the next few years.