Bengals kicker Mike Nugent was playing well through the first six weeks of the 2016 NFL season. Then, very quickly, that changed when he missed two fields in Week 7 against the Browns and missed another field goal and an inexplicable extra point in Week 8 against the Redskins.
Last week, during the Bengals’ win over the Browns, Nugent had a 33% make rate and this week, after missing his only attempt, that rate was obviously 0%. On the season, Nugent is making 73.7% of his kicks and 94.4% of his extra points. That field goal percentage ranks among the bottom five kickers in the NFL and raises questions as to whether the Bengals can continue to pay someone who has become a liability to the team getting a win.
After a rough preseason (two missed field goals and a missed extra point in four games) many fans were scared of Nugent costing the Bengals a win this season. And while there were many reasons why the Bengals vs Redskins game ended in a tie, Nugent was a big reason, as he left four points on the field in a game in which every single point mattered.
Nugent has now attempted three field goals at a 50+ yard distance this season and has missed all three. You can't expect a kicker to make every 50+ attempt he tries. But, can't you expect a greater rate than 0/3? If the Bengals trust him enough to go out there and try a 50+ yard field goal, he needs to start making them, at least occasionally. Otherwise, the offense should get more aggressive and go for it on fourth down.
“I felt like we lost by 30 or 40 the way I played. I left four points out there,” Nugent told Bengals.com. “I’ve got to look at it on film. I was happy when I hit it (the extra point). It felt real solid. Then I looked up and it wasn’t there.”
Nugent added more in a radio interview in which he admitted to not being good enough on the day, and said, “today is on the kicker.”
At least Nugent didn’t hide after the game. It looks like he answered quite a few questions and spoke to the media at length about his role in the tie.
“I don’t like my poor play having to do with a loss or now a tie,” Nugent said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s one of those things I need to play better. We shouldn’t have been here in overtime. The extra point or the field goal, you have to make the kicks.”
It’s reassuring that he knows it’s an issue, but, acknowledging it doesn’t bring back those four points. You can place blame for defensive points allowed, or dropped passes on offense, but it’s pretty clear cut for a kicker. When Nugent misses a field goal or an extra point, those are points the Bengals were expecting to be on the board. And instead, they are left on the field.
Even if we take away the 51-yard miss, Nugent still had the extra point miss, which would have been all the Bengals needed to claim a win: one point in regulation.
“If this was Week 1 or 16 it still feels unsatisfying,” Nugent said. “This team has worked so hard. I’m a closer. That’s what I do. When you are not doing your job you look at everyone’s faces and say these guys are working so hard I have to be able to finish for them.”
So, what now? The Bengals have two weeks before their next game, a Monday Night Football game in primetime against the Giants in Week 10. Will Nugent be the kicker when the Bengals arrive at Metlife Stadium? If there’s any better options on the free agent market, the Bengals should bring them in for a workout, fast.
If we hear nothing about the Bengals trying out new kickers, I wouldn’t be surprised, but especially on a bye week, is there any harm in seeing who’s available?