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Kyle Larson on "downward spiral"; interest in Kevin Huber in the draft?

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
2008 100 39.1 32rd 34.2 30th 28 t-5th 22 t-3rd
2007 59 35.2 26th 35.2 28th 21 t-21st 10 23rd
2006 77 44.5 t-6th 38.6 t-4th 26 t-16th 9 t-28th
2005 60 42.5 17th 35.6 24th 13 30th 7 32nd
2004 83 41.7 18th 35.5 t-16th 21 t-19th 10 t-26

* 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.

Career Statistics
Year GP Punts Yds Avg Lg IN20 BLK
2004 RS - - - - - -
2005 3 5 166 33.2 49 3 0
2006 1 2 101 50.5 51 2 0
2007 13 57 2,672 46.9 62 20 0
2008 14 60 2,697 45.0 64 24 0
Totals 31 124 5,636 45.5 64 49 0

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.

Draft Name Team Round (Overall)
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.