It wasn't long ago when Bengals fans were frustrated with the kicking and punting aspect of special teams. If it wasn't Shayne Graham missing a three yard field goal that could have propelled us into the play offs it was Kyle Larson figuring out new ways to punt the ball backwards. It was impressive to see Graham kick 29 of 30 through the uprights but what was completely unimpressive was the fact that the one he missed was the one we needed the most. Most people don't realize how important it is to have a good punter on the team. If the offense is misfiring, a good punter can almost single handedly win a game as long as he's backed up by a good defense. So, when your punter is averaging like negative four yards per punt, well that just doesn't help anything.
Over the past two seasons, the Bengals front office has done a complete change out of their punters and kickers. First, Kyle Larson was let go to make room for All-American punter from University of Cincinnati Kevin Huber. Then, after a typical choke artist job by Shayne Graham, the Bengals grabbed two kickers, Dave Rayner and Mike Nugent, to compete for the kicking job. Let's meet who will be kicking our balls this season.
Punter: Kevin Huber
Weight: 210 lbs
Huber had a hell of a career at UC and he's on track to have a great career as a Bengal. Last season he averaged 43.2 yards per punt (compared to Larson's 39) and 24 of those punts pinned teams inside the 20-yard line while only having ten touch backs. Huber's 43.2 yards per punt average is the Bengals second best average since 1999. Huber has the best net yards average for a Bengals punter in ten years. He helped the Bengals defense achieve their top five rating by pinning opposing offenses near their own end zones and helping the Bengals win the field position battle. Huber is primed for his second season as Bengals punter and hopefully he'll be even better this year than he was last. I don't just like him because I'm a UC fan or a homer. I like him because I think he's just as good as any punter in the NFL.... and he's from UC.... and I'm a homer.
Kicker: Dave Rayner
Weight: 210 lbs
College: Michigan State
Rayner has played for five teams in his four seasons and so far he is 42 of 59 with a long kick of 54 yards. He is also 48 of 49 when it comes to extra points. He played two games with the Bengals in 2008 when Shayne Graham was rehabbing a groin injury. His 71.2 percent field goal percentage will compete with Mike Nugent's 79 percent. Will Rayner be kicking the field goals and extra points for the Bengals this season? We'll find out soon enough.
Kicker: Mike Nugent
Weight: 186 lbs
College: THE Ohio State University
Mike Nugent spent a long time as a New York Jet before kicking in Tampa Bay and Arizona in 2009. Now he'll be competing with Dave Rayner for the Bengals kicking job. In his career, Nugent has made 79 kicks out of 100 attempts (79 percent) and he's hit 97 of 99 extra point attempts. He has two 100-point seasons so far and he has the second longest streak in Jets history with 19 straight successful field goal attempts. He's a former All-American out of Ohio State and he's a local boy from Centerville, Ohio. Will Nugent be Shayne Grahams replacement? Only time will tell.
Long Snapper: Clark Harris
Weight: 260 lbs
Clark Harris came to Cincinnati last season to replace Brad St. Louis who was struggling to get the ball to the holder who was about ten years behind him... seriously, how hard can it be? Anyway, Harris did a good job and when he started snapping the ball, the kicking game started to get better. Every single one of Harris' snaps were on target. You would think he has the edge (I've been watching way too much Deadliest Warrior) on the long snapper job but, alas, there is another.
Long Snapper: Mike Windt
Weight: 251 lbs
College: THE University of Cincinnati
Mike Windt is a local Cincinnati boy and he comes to the Bengals as an undrafted free agent from the University of Cincinnati. He's a rookie and doesn't have the experience that Clark Harris does but he still may have a leg up. At UC, Windt spent his college career snapping to Kevin Huber who was the punter and the holder there and guess what, Huber is the punter and holder for the Bengals too. He's used to working with Huber and being familiar with your holder and punter is very important for a long snapper. So, who will win... Harris or Windt. Well let me plug their names into our hyper advanced computer program to simulate 1,000 battles to the death... wait.... damn you Deadliest Warrior!!!!