The Bengals have endured one of the worst kicking situations of any NFL team this season.
Mike Nugent entered 2016 as one of the more reliable veterans any NFL team employed, but he quickly became as big of a liability as any team had to offer. It took 14 weeks of missed field goals and extra points, but the Bengals finally cut Nugent on Tuesday before signing Randy Bullock off waivers as his replacement.
But the Bengals may not be quite ready to settle on Bullock for all three remaining games. In fact, some interesting thoughts from special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons suggest Bullock is already on a bit of a hot seat in his first game as the team’s kicker.
When asked about Bullock’s future in Cincinnati, Simmons refused to assure him of a job beyond Week 15 vs the Steelers.
“We'll see how it goes from here. We're just trying to survive this week and survive this season,” Simmons said after practice Wednesday, via Bengals.com. “There's still a lot at stake for us. We've got to win. For us to have an opportunity to do anything, we're going to have to win this game and obviously we're going to have to have help.
“But we felt we had to do something here to put ourselves in a position where, not only for this week, but the week after and the week after that, we make kicks. We'll see where it goes from here. I can't answer that question right now, what the future holds for him here. I know what this week holds.”
That certainly makes it sound like the Bengals are putting Bullock in a ‘make the kicks or get cut’ situation this week. After watching how badly Nugent struggled this year, you can’t really blame the Bengals if they now want to do more of a tryout with various kickers than simply settle on one and hope he gets it done.
If Bullock goes out there and misses a chip-shot field goal and/or an extra point this week, the Bengals should probably cut him and see if another kicker can get it done. There’s still some decent names on the market like Travis Coons, Zach Hocker or Ross Martin who could get a chance.
Even Bullock is admitting these final three games are an audition for him to try and earn a spot with an NFL team next year.
“I think any game is an audition, so I'm thankful for the opportunity. I've had a couple fill-in positions. I'm here to perform at a high level, help this team win and hopefully stick,” Bullock said Wednesday. “The biggest thing is you have to have a routine so you're productive. You're constantly working out, kicking and doing whatever you need to do to get ready for whenever you do get the call because it's not a good feeling when you feel unprepared. Luckily, I never felt that way at all.”
Hopefully, Bullock can get the job done and, at the very least, do enough to keep his job for the final three weeks of the regular season. But if not, the Bengals should use the remaining time this season as a tryout for other kickers.
Ideally, the Bengals will go into the 2017 NFL Draft with a veteran kicker like Bullock in place and then draft a good kicker if one falls to them in the latter rounds for competition.