49ers' dicey kicker scenario
During the warmup drills Billy Cundiff demonstrated better leg strength than David Akers. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SANTA CLARA -- Kicker Billy Cundiff made his 49ers' practice debut Thursday afternoon with a lot of eyeballs on him.
Cundiff and David Akers opened their kicker competition with general manager Trent Baalke, coach Jim Harbaugh and special-teams coordinator Brad Seely paying attention to their every moves.
During the warmup drills, which must be open to the media, Cundiff, 32, demonstrated better leg strength than Akers. Under the new kickoff rules of the past two seasons, Cundiff had touchbacks on 60.6 percent of his kickoffs. Akers' kickoffs the past two seasons resulted in touchbacks 48.3 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus.
Neither kicker watched as the other lined up for kicks on Thursday. Bay Area News Group's Steve Corkran charted Akers as 16 of 21 on his warmup kicks (these kicks took place on an artificial surface while the rest of the team went through warmups in their posiiton groups) with Andy Lee holding. Cundiff was 7 of 8 with a snap and hold during this time.
Former 49ers kicker Joe Nedney, now an analyst for CSN Bay Area on "49ers Central," said Harbaugh will be monitoring the psyche of Akers during the competition before determining which player to use in the team's Jan. 12 playoff opener.
"The telling sign to me is the fact is he's missing them wide left, which means he's not getting his hips through the ball," Nedney said of Akers. "He's not swinging confidently through the ball. It's kind of what we call pokin' and hopin'. . . I don't blame him. He's carrying a lot of noise into every single rep. When it's going well, it's quiet. You go out and do your job and get it done. Every miss compounds and there's a little more noise in your head, there's noise outside. You're carrying a lot of stuff out on the field.
"It's going to take a lot of mental strength for him to overcome that. Billy Cundiff definitely has the easier route."