Coaches don't like to admit it, but the fact is a lot of the decisions being made over the course of a football training camp are quite subjective.
During a season, of course, there are reams of statistics to tell a coach how a player is doing -- tackles, catches, rushes, averages, completions, touches, hurries, the list goes on.
If you can count it, someone surely is.
But during camp, when there's just two pre-season games for coaches to assess 75-plus players and decide who stays and who goes, coaches often have to make those decisions without the benefit of cold hard numbers to back up their observations.
But not -- much to Justin Palardy's delight -- when it comes to field-goal kickers. It couldn't be simpler to keep numbers on what kickers are doing at any time of the year and the numbers for Palardy so far this training camp show he's doing exactly what he's been told he has to do this season -- be more consistent.
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said Sunday Palardy has made 14 of the 16 field-goal attempts coaches tracked over the first eight days of camp. At least one of those misses wasn't exactly a gimme -- a 47-yarder mid-week went wide -- and LaPolice said he's been very pleased with Palardy and his 88 per cent success rate.
"He's been solid," said LaPolice.
Which is good news for Palardy because LaPolice had an even shorter answer when he was asked if Palardy needs to be better than he was last season. "Yes," was the reply.
Now, it wasn't like Palardy was awful in 2011 -- he was a respectable 40-52, a 77 per cent success rate. But it was down noticeably from his rookie season with Winnipeg in 2010, when Palardy went 26-30 in 11 games, an 87 per cent clip.
What troubled the Bombers in particular about Palardy in 2011 was some of his misses were short chip shots -- the 35-yards-and-in variety that need to be automatic at the professional level.
Palardy said Sunday part of the problem in 2011 was he went through three different holders over the course of the year and never did get a reliable rhythm.
But he also agreed with LaPolice -- both that he needs to be better than he was last season and that, so far at least, he has been. "My goal this year is just to be more consistent -- to be steady from Game 1 through the playoffs," says the 24-year-old native of Truro, N.S.
"And I've been very consistent this camp. I've taken pride in that this year."
The Bombers brought in a challenger in import Eric Wilbur this training camp primarily to challenge punter Mike Renaud -- who had even a more erratic season last year than Palardy. But Wilbur has also been getting opportunities at kickoffs and field goals during practice and LaPolice seemed to suggest he'd need Wilbur to demonstrate he can do both punting and place-kicking in some capacity if the Bombers are going to keep an American kicker around.
"Certainly it's not the deciding factor whether he can do both or not," said LaPolice. "But certainly if you're going to invest in that, you'd like to maybe have a guy who could do that eventually long term. Or at least be able to back up another spot if something happened to Justin."
LaPolice didn't provide Wilbur's field goal numbers so far in camp, but the consensus among observers to this point is that Wilbur has demonstrated the stronger, but more erratic leg.