The Bengals may have a major problem at kicker.
For essentially all of training camp this year, Mike Nugent was drilling everything he kicked and looked primed for another solid season as the Bengals kicker. He's had some hiccups over the years, though was overall as good of a kicker as an NFL team could ask for.
That ended when the preseason began. For whatever reason, Nugent now looks like a rookie just trying to break into the NFL. Through two games, Nugent has missed two field goals and an extra point. The two missed attempts were from 45 and 48 yards respectively, while the extra point was a mere 33 yards.
Nugent is stating the obvious in that preseason struggles don't necessarily translate to regular-season issues. However, he is still being hard on himself and knows he's better than these kinds of mistakes.
"If you're going to miss field goals, you want it to be in the preseason," Nugent said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I'm not in any way, shape or form am I happy. I kicked pathetically tonight. I was just terrible tonight, and I've just got to learn from it."
To be fair, Nugent bounced back with a 50-yard make Thursday, but it was in the midst of a 30-14 blowout in the preseason.
"No concerns. I just hit the ball well in warm-ups and hit it horrible in the game," Nugent said, via Bengals.com. "In my career, I’ve hit the ball extremely well in pre-season games, and the last two games, I’ve been pathetic."
What's going to happen when the Bengals need a 49-yard field goal to win a last-second game in Pittsburgh, New York or Baltimore?
Based on what we've seen so far, there's too high of a chance we'd see a miss than there should be for a kicker on a title-contending team. This obviously has head coach Marvin Lewis in a bad mood, as the last thing he wants to see is the contender he's built the Bengals into not reach their potential because of a kicker.
But when asked following Thursday's game if he’s concerned with Nugent’s play, Lewis sternly replied, "No, I’m not," and that's all he would say on the matter. That seems to indicate Lewis isn't considering a change at kicker, but it's not exactly a ringing endorsement either.
The good news is, the Bengals have competition on the roster, at least when he's healthy. Zach Hocker was signed this offseason to ensure the Bengals had another kicker in the event Nugent was injured or had a complete meltdown, which we've just seen a brief glimpse of.
The problem is, Hocker has been sidelined for most of training camp and the preseason due to an ankle injury. However, Geoff Hobson writes that Hocker is expected to resume kicking next week.
Let’s just hope he’s good enough to push Nugent for the starting job. The Bengals are better off fixing this issue now than during a loaded first half of their regular season schedule.