Texans’ kicker game plan: Get Joey Slye up to speed fast

From the moment the Texans determined that regular kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn would need to be placed on injured reserve with a pulled groin, they’ve been involved in a crash course in getting new kicker Joey Slye acclimated and ready to kick in a game.

Since the former Carolina Panthers kicker beat out Michael Badgley in a tryout Monday and joined the Texans’ practice squad, Slye has been building his timing with long snapper Jon Weeks and holder Cameron Johnston. In a hurry.

While Fairbairn is out for at least the next three weeks, it’s on Slye to perform and deliver in the clutch for a revamped kicking game.

A former all-state linebacker and kicker who walked on at Virginia Tech, Slye has made 54 of 68 career field goals for a 79.4 success rate. At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, he’s known for his leg strength and booming kickoffs.

“Happy he gets a chance to prove himself as he works through with a new snapper and a new holder,” Texans special teams coordinator Frank Ross said. “Strong leg and excited to work with Joey. He's been great as far as professionalism and trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”

Slye was 25 of 32 on field goals and 31 of 35 on extra points in 2019. He was short by a few inches on an 65-yard field goal try last season in a loss to the New Orleans Saints and short on a 67-yard attempt against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was cut by Carolina this year as they traded for Ryan Santoso.

“Obviously, when you see him in person for the first time, the guy is 220 pound,” Ross said. “He's built like a linebacker. He played linebacker growing up. When you look at Carolina the last few years, they were banging touchbacks and he has the ability to do that. We'll definitely use that to his strength depending on situations in games.”

The Texans do expect Fairbairn to eventually return. He got hurt during warmups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the third preseason game.

“Unfortunate, not expecting that to happen at any point for a kicker,” Ross said. “Just an unfortunate deal for Ka'imi. He's going to recover. He's going to be all right and he is working his way back."

Signed to a four-year, $17.6 million contract that includes $9 million guaranteed and a $4 million base salary in 2021, the former Lou Groza Award winner from UCLA made 87.1 percent of his field goals last season (27 of 31) and 37 of 40 extra points last season.

In four NFL seasons, Fairbairn has made 104 of 123 field goals (84.6 percent) and 148 of 161 extra points (91.9 percent).

Would the Texans potentially use safety Justin Reid on kickoffs again after he stepped in successfully for Fairbairn against the defending Super Bowl champions.

“There's always a chance,” Ross said. “It was a dream come true for him. It proved that at some point every player on this team is a football player, not just a position player or a specialist, and that was fun to see. It opened up some eyes for sure."

Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128

Carolina Panthers v Los Angeles Chargers

Photo: Getty Images

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