Life in the NFL is precious. That’s especially true when considering the life of a kicker
No position can see a player go from being at the top of the food chain one month to being out of the job the next. All it takes for any kicker to lose his job is a bad stretch of games, which is why the Cincinnati Bengals may have a new kicker this year.
Mike Nugent was able to have enough good stretches during his tenure with the Bengals to keep his job for almost seven full years. That ended last year after a brutal 13 games of botched easy kick seemingly every week.
That allowed Randy Bullock to get a brief chance to showcase himself, but all it took was one missed game-winner in Houston to provoke Cincinnati into drafting his likely replacement.
That was Memphis kicker Jake Elliott, who is now the slight favorite to be Cincinnati’s kicker this season. But like any rookie, Elliott must first prove his worth and show he’s a better option than the incumbent Bullock.
So far, so good for both kickers in OTAs. According to Dayton Daily News, both kickers went 4-for-4 kicking on Tuesday, including makes of 41, 37, 48 and 44 yards.
“We kick every day, so it’s not like I’m competing really hard against either guy in that situation,” said Elliott. “It’s definitely a little extra pressure when you go out there with the team with all the veterans around, but it’s fun.”
Elliott has the unusual honor of being the first kicker drafted in Marvin Lewis’ 14 years running the ship in Cincinnati. Lewis has traditionally relied on veterans who’ve earned their stripes with previous teams, so relying on a rookie in Elliott would be a new venture, should he win the role.
That’s why we can’t rule out Bullock winning this job for a coaching staff that strongly prefers experienced veterans to green rookies. The good news is Elliott is used to coming in as a new guy and beating out veterans for a job, just as he did in his freshman year at Memphis.
“Freshman year was a little nerve racking,” Elliott said. “I mean I came in on scholarship, so it was kind of a situation where they expected me to win the job, but obviously it wasn’t given to me. There were a couple other guys there already, so I just had to go in there and compete and win the job.”
Elliott won the job and kept it for his entire college career, helping earn him the honor of being the first kicker selected in this year’s NFL Draft. He’ll look to replicate that success in Cincinnati and become the long-term solution at kicker this franchise has been longing for.