The Bengals currently have only one kicker on their roster for 2017 and it’s a player who has almost zero kicking experience and has zero NFL experience. That player is Jonathan Brown who was a soccer player before switching over to football and recording one kickoff at Louisville. The Bengals actually signed Brown in the 2016 offseason, but an injury led to him going on Injured Reserve before even training camp began and he was waived before the start of the season. Last week, the Bengals signed him to a futures contract, and the thought is that he’ll compete for a spot with other currently unknown players.
But, it seems that there is an intention for the Bengals to bring back the kicker who ended the season with the team, Randy Bullock.
Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson wrote an article this week titled, “Bullock, Bengals talking about return as kicker becomes an off-season priority”.
It’s believed they’re talking to Randy Bullock, the six-year veteran they signed at the end of last season to succeed Nugent. Even with Bullock expected to be in the fold, it’s believed the Bengals are going to keep looking and that very well may mean a rookie gets a look.
Offseason priority seems to be strong wording for someone who missed the only big opportunity he was given.
Bullock went 5/6 on field goals and 6/6 on extra points in his time with the Bengals, but the one miss was a big one as it was made with time expiring in Houston on Christmas Eve. A make would have given the Bengals the win. But, a miss, which is what occurred, caused the Bengals to lose the game.
So it seems Bullock will be back and that the Bengals will see if they can go the route of rescuing a veteran as they did with Mike Nugent and Shayne Graham before him. But, in addition to that, the Bengals are at least taking a look at some of the incoming rookie options who will be available in this year’s NFL Draft. Much of the Bengals’ staff and coaching staff is down in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl this week, including special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons.
Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona State is the kicker for the North team and Jake Elliott is the kicker out of Memphis for the South team. Simmons could be giving them a good look this week during the practices and ultimately the game. The kickers will be kicking extra points from 33-yards out, as is now the standard at the NFL level.
“We’re looking for points. That’s the priority” Simmons said while in attendance at the Mobile Convention Center this week for the Senior Bowl and its festivities. “You saw how important it was in the championship games on Sunday.”
During the Wild Card and Divisional Round of the playoffs, no kicker missed an extra point or field goal. But, on Sunday in the Conference Championship games, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell missed an extra point, as did Falcons kicker Matt Bryant. But, neither really mattered as the Steelers lost by 19 and the Falcons won by 23. Packers kicker Matt Crosby missed a field goal, which was the biggest miss of the Conference Championship weekend as it helped swing momentum the Falcons' way early on. But, when looking at the final score, those three points wouldn't have been nearly enough to make a difference. Still, points come at a premium in the NFL and the Bengals certainly know that after Nugent missed far too many kicks during the first 13 games of the season. Depending on your outlook, there’s reason to believe Nugent cost the Bengals many games this season, or at least contributed heavily in losses (and the tie). And, the same goes for Bullock in the game against the Texans, though, the Bengals’ offense was completely terrible for the large majority of the game, and if they pulled their weight, then it wouldn’t have been on Bullock to make the game winning field goal.
Either way, the Bengals need to bring in a variety of kickers this offseason: a former soccer player, a veteran, a rookie, and maybe more than one of the latter two categories. There needs to be a competition and the best player (not necessarily the one with the most NFL experience) should win the job. Last offseason, the Bengals ridded themselves of Brandon Tate’s dead weight, which came as quite a surprise, despite rookie Alex Erickson’s remarkable preseason. If a rookie kicker proves to be the best option, the Bengals shouldn’t fear a lack of experience and go that route again.
You can get a look at Gonzalez and Elliott during the Senior Bowl, which takes place on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on NFL Network.