Once again, the point of these bubble watch articles isn't just to predict who the coaches and front office will choose. It's also about who you personally think should make the roster, regardless of what the coaches/FO decide.
Clark Harris is a guaranteed lock at LS, and rightfully so. He's been perfect over 5 seasons as a Bengal. Tanner Hawkinson has been our backup LS in camp, but he has had trouble snapping, plus he is not nearly as fast and athletic as Harris when it comes to being a special teams coverage player on punts.
Kevin Huber is a guaranteed lock at P, and rightfully so. He's probably a top-5 punter in the league.
Some have floated the idea of keeping Quinn Sharp as a dual K/P and releasing both Huber and Nugent, but that's not worth the risk just to save one roster spot, especially considering how good Huber is. It has been tried once in the past 8 years: Michael Koenen was briefly a Triple Threat on the Falcons as their placekicker, punter, and kickoff specialist. It didn't go so well.
Mike Nugent is a virtual lock at K. But hey, Tate and Geathers are virtual locks too, and Cincy Jungle decided to vote Tate off the roster, and nearly Geathers too, in the previous polls.
Nugent is a decent NFL-caliber kicker, but is generally below-average on field goals relative to the rest of the league. From 2010 to 2013, his FG% was 21st, 8th, 20th, and 23rd.
He is generally average on kickoffs relative to the rest of the league. From 2010 to 2013, his opponent KR average was 14th, 30th (we had excellent ST coverage that year- Peerman, Mays, Skuta, Miles, Brandon Johnson, etc.), 13th, and 15th.
Nugent has had season-ending injuries to his ACL and calf during his Bengals career. He is 32 years old, and is a UFA after 2014. He will cost $1.4 million for 2014.
Nugent has experience, with 7 seasons as a team's main kicker (3 with the Jets, 4 with the Bengals; he's also had brief stints with the Cards and Bucs). Nugent has 7 career game-winning field goals in his career. Four were with the Bengals: against the Bills and Browns in 2011, and against the Bills and Lions in 2013. This is him after the Lions game-winner:
Happy 32nd birthday to former #Buckeyes and current #Bengals kicker Mike Nugent! pic.twitter.com/GYhXPdR15L— Enquirer Sports (@ENQSports) March 2, 2014
He also had a would-be-game-winner against the Dolphins in 2013, but the Bengals D blew it afterwards. The Lions and Dolphins kicks were particularly impressive, because they were both from 54 yards out. However, in the 2013 Bills and Lions games, each of his game-winners was making up for earlier misses.
Quinn Sharp is 24 years old, and will be an exclusive rights free agent after 2015 (i.e. he would certainly stay with us beyond 2015 if we wanted to retain him). He will cost $930,000 for 2014 and 2015 combined.
In high school, he was the Rivals.com top kicker in the nation.
In college at Oklahoma State, he was a 3-time All-American as a kicker and/or punter (Nugent was a 1-time All-American). Sharp's career punting average of 45.9 led all active NCAA players. His career FG percentage of 84.7 was second among all active NCAA players. He also led the nation in kickoff touchbacks in each of his four seasons.
In 2013 preseason with the Bengals, he was 2-2 on field goals with a long of 47.
Quinn Sharp nails a 47-yd FG to extend #Bengals lead to 20-10 with 5:02 left in 3rd qtr. #CINvsATL— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 9, 2013
In the 2013 preseason, 9 of Sharp's 10 kickoffs (90%) reached the endzone, and 6 of 10 (60%) were touchbacks. Very small sample size, of course.
In the 2013 regular season, 57 of Nugent's 72 kickoffs (79%) reached the endzone, and 30 of 72 (42%) were touchbacks.
It goes without saying that Sharp has no real NFL experience. Both Nugent and Sharp have looked very good in training camp.
Obviously, the coaches/FO will choose Nugent, while keeping Sharp on speed dial for possibly being the Bengals kicker for 2015 and beyond.
Personally, I wouldn't mind if Sharp knocked off Nugent, because Sharp looks to be a real asset as a kicker, and is a better long-term option. But I wouldn't mind retaining Nugent, either.
Please don't vote for Nugent just because he happens to be a Buckeye. You can vote for him because of game-winning field goals, concerns about Sharp not having played a real NFL game before, etc.