Special Teams coach Darrin Simmons is still expecting Kyle Larson to get better, after he started his career improving until his average gross and net punts were inside the top-10 by 2006. After that, Larson stumbled, what Simmons called, a "downward spiral the past couple of years." Simmons continues that "Kyle has to fix Kyle. I think he knows that. We've got to be able to change field position. We didn't do that enough this year." While he sounds supportive in that disappointed father type of way, this is by no means an endorsement either.
You'll note that Larson's averages stink in 2008, however fair catches and punts inside the 20 both ranked inside the top-five. Maybe that's because he recorded 100 punts, 17 more than his rookie season and formerly career high. Maybe it's not. Either way, the Bengals last season routinely struggled with field position; however, that blame is hardly exclusive to Larson, who often punted after the offense went three-and-out, or Larson was forced to punt with his heels barely clearing the chalk at the back of the end zone. Nor did he help our field position; of 32 games played in the past two seasons, only 14 of them had Larson recording a punt of 50 yards or more.
|Punts||Avg||Rank||Net Avg.||Rank||Inside 20||Rank||FC*||Rank|
* Stands for Fair Catch
For those of you looking to see a new punter next season, that's very unlikely (as of right now). Larson just completed the first season of a five-year contract that he signed in March of 2008. Larson is now scheduled to make $1 million in 2009, $1.3 million in 2010, $1.35 million in 2011 and $1.4 million in 2012; to be fairly honest, no, I don't expect Larson to fulfill the contract. Presuming that the Bengals look to the free agency market, punters available include Shane Lechler (Raiders), Ben Graham (Cardinals), Chris Hanson (Patriots), Craig Hentrich (Titans), Michael Koenen (Falcons) and Hunter Smith (Colts).
Bengals interested in a local punter? Word has reached CincyJungle that the Bengals are very interested in University of Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber, who will be in this year's NFL Draft. Huber, winner of three different All-America Team awards after finishing seventh nationally with 44.9 yards per punt, is considered one of the two best punters available in the draft.
Now, typically, there's 2-3 punters taken in each draft -- especially true since 2004 (chart below). If the Bengals are looking to draft Huber, they'd need to focus on that in the 5th-6th rounds, provided the expectation that punters are likely on the draft board for other teams.
|2008||Durant Brooks||Redskins||6h (168)|
|2007||Adam Podlesh||Jaguars||4th (101)|
|Daniel Sepulveda||Steelers||4th (112)|
|Brandon Fields||Miami||7th (225)|
|2006||Sam Koch||Ravens||6th (203)|
|Ryan Plackemeier||Seahawks||7th (239)|
|2005||Dustin Colquitt||Chiefs||3rd (99)|
|Reggie Hodges||Rams||6th (210)|
|2004||B.J. Sander||Packers||3rd (87)|
|Andy Lee||49ers||6th (188)|
|Donnie Jones||Seahawks||7th (224)|
Ultimately, we don't think the Bengals will position themselves to draft Huber. However, if he's available later on the second day, specifically the sixth and seventh rounds, don't be surprised if they pull the trigger.