While there were many areas of disappointment for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, few positions were as big of a disaster as kicker. Mike Nugent was a well-liked player in the team’s locker room and one who had made number of big kicks since his arrival in Cincinnati in 2010. However, last year was marked with a number of critical misses that directly led to losses.
The team’s brain trust finally let Nugent go after Week 14 and the team added veteran journeyman Randy Bullock. He had a mostly positive three-game stint with the Bengals, but it was lowlighted by a miss against the Texans on Christmas Eve, on a 43-yard kick that would have won the game with time expiring. Regardless, the team re-signed Bullock at the end of January, a week after adding former soccer player Jonathan Brown to the roster.
When addressing the media at the NFL Combine this week, Cincinnati’s director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, spoke on a number of subjects surrounding the club. One of topic of discussion was the team doing its due diligence in finding a talented kicker this year.
“We’re always going to be open at taking a look at another one until somebody proves they’re the guy, and we’re not in that situation right now,” Tobin said, via The Dayton Daily News.
“During the draft, after the draft, maybe a couple of them. Maybe a couple in rookie mini camp. We’re going to look at kickers. We’re going to be trying to find the next Justin Tucker.”
Obviously, Tucker is the shining beacon of NFL success at the position, both in making critical kicks and ones from extremely long distances. Some may find it surprising to know that he was an undrafted player, signed by the Ravens out of the University of Texas in 2012.
“We’re going to look. A lot,” Tobin continued. “And somebody is going to have to raise their hand and say it’s me by making kicks, making big kicks, making preseason kicks. We don’t want too many, because it’s hard to work too many. But we want to have enough views of enough guys to where we go to camp with the ones we feel have a real chance.”
In previous years, the Bengals haven’t publicly noted having this type of open of a competition at kicker—even after some average years from Nugent. Given the league moving back extra point tries in 2015, accuracy and big legs have increased in importance at the kicker position.
On one hand, we could see the team using one of its later draft picks, of the 11 they’ve collected, on a promising kicker prospect. On the other, so many other talented kickers who have made their way in the NFL, including Tucker, have come via the undrafted route.
Regardless, in a year with many of the team’s positions needing competition, it’s good to hear Tobin promoting that notion for one of the most disappointing spots on the team in 2016.