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Quarter season grades for Bengals special teams

We take a look at the first portion of the Bengals' 2015 season and examine the performance of the special teams unit.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals are off to one of  the better starts in their history and we're looking at how each of the three phases have fared so far. The defense and offense have both looked formidable through the first four weeks, and both units have helped to carry Cincinnati to a 4-0 shot, out of the gate.

Special teams is always the overlooked aspect of any team, but when an error occurs on the unit, results can prove disastrous. Whether it's a missed field goal, muffed punt or allowing of a return for a touchdown, units that don't have their act together can cost their teams playoff berths. Let's take a look at the Bengals' special teams performance through their first four games.


Grade: A -

Kevin Huber: It's been another good year for the veteran punter, as evidenced by his No. 3 ranking in average yards per punt. Huber is averaging 50 yards per punt and is tied for 11th in punts inside the 20-yard line with six on the year. While the latter stat might not be all-so-impressive, you need to take a look at the overall picture.

Since the Bengals' offense has been so efficient this year, Huber has rarely had to punt. His 14 on the year is good for 29th on the NFL's overall list, and it's an (non)-indictment of Cincinnati's offense. If he had more opportunities, certain stats would likely drop and others increase, while both still showing his worth as a top punter in the league.


Grade: D

Mike Nugent: I'm sorry, but what would you like me to say? Nugent is 3-for-5 on field goals for the year (60 percent) and is currently ranked 28th in the league. If you're wondering if the leg strength argument is tired, his longest make on the year is from 35 yards. Nugent has had some big makes in his Bengals career, but other misses are lingering with fans.

Nugent is tied for No. 3 for extra points made this year (14), which actually says something in 2015 because of the new extra point rules. Nugget is a valued member of the Bengals team, but has had a rough start to the season. He was great down the stretch last season and Cincinnati has to be hoping he'll have the same type of finish this year.

Kick and Punt Coverage:

Grade: B+

Overall Unit: The Bengals keep promoting corners over the years from gunners to bigger defensive roles and they don't seem to miss a beat. Dre Kirkpatrick was one of the best gunners in the league, yet his promotion as a starting corner has paved way for Darqueze Dennard to man the spot. Very little impact, if any, has been felt.

A 21-yard punt return by Michael Campanaro is the biggest notch in the opposition's belt this year, given the lack of other big plays in the return game. So far, the Bengals haven't allowed a touchdown or any other back-breaking plays.

Kick and Punt Returns:

Grade: C

The Outlook: It's been a bunch of "meh" from Bengals returners this year. And, for those who love to give Brandon Tate the stink eye, it hasn't been just him. Adam Jones in both aspects hasn't brought the spark that people hoped he would and speedy rookie Mario Alford has been inactive for every game this season.

The Bengals deserve credit for using their "No. 1 cornerback" on returns, but it might stop now that Jones has groin and elbow issues. We'll probably see more of Tate going forward with a sprinkle of Jones for a potential big play, which might have been their plan all along. Regardless, as the season wears on and games get tighter, Cincinnati will need some big plays in this aspect to pull out wins.