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Bolts' kicking duel heats up between Sturgis, Aguayo

Most preseason job battles happen behind the scenes and deep down the depth chart. Few NFL teams have high-profile fights for gigs in which the loser is usually cut.

Then there are kicker battles.

With teams generally keeping one kicker, there are just 32 jobs in the NFL for point-booters.

The Chargers own one of the more intriguing kicker battles this year, with veteran Caleb Sturgis taking on draft disappointment Roberto Aguayo.

Neither has locked down the job yet.

"I'd love to make the decision sooner than later," coach Anthony Lynn said, via the Los Angeles Times. "I really would. But it's so close right now."

The Chargers have notoriously struggled with the kicker position since Nick Novak began to crumble in 2014. Last season, L.A. went through four kickers, yet were successful on an NFL-worst 67 percent of field-goal attempts. Missed and blocked kicks were responsible for the poor start to the season, losing the first two games on missed field goals. The losses kept the Chargers out of the playoffs.

Neither Sturgis nor Aguayo stood out in the first preseason game. Sturgis nailed a 45-yarder but shanked a 41-yard field goal attempt. Aguayo went two of two on PATs.

"It's a long battle. ... We'll see how it plays out in games," Lynn said. "What a player does in games, to me, is what I evaluate the most."

Lynn noted the Chargers could keep both kickers on the roster if neither wins the gig outright.

L.A. is bringing along Sturgis slowly after a hip injury wiped out all but one game with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

"We're just being really cautious with him," Lynn said. "You know kickers. They're a little weird anyway. They're not like a linebacker. You don't just throw 'em back out there."

(Alternative headline: Anthony Lynn: Kickers are a "little weird anyway.")

For Aguayo, who entered the league as a second-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2016, managing a fragile psyche is key. The 24-year-old missed nine of 31 kicks as a rookie. He was cut twice last season without appearing in a game. Obviously talented in college, Aguayo is attempting finally get past the yips.

"A lot of kickers don't become a good kicker in the National Football League until they're cut," Lynn said. "When he got here, I told him, 'You've been cut three times. You've got nothing to lose. You're playing with home money. Turn it loose.'"

Whichever booter wins the battle will have a playoff-caliber team hanging on his every kick.

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