Mistakes in the kicking game are, unfortunately, a very familiar thing for Cincinnati Bengals fans in recent years. During the last three seasons, the Bengals saw a huge decline in Mike Nugent’s performance as he missed key field goals and extra points in big time situations. In his final season with the Bengals, he managed to convert a paltry 79.3 percent of his field goals and extra points. For that reason, Bengals fans are going to be more sensitive to bad misses in the kicking game, like the missed field goal and extra point rookie kicker Jake Elliott suffered on Saturday during the team’s scrimmage in front of more than 11,000 fans inside Paul Brown Stadium.
Elliott is accepting full responsibility for his mistakes, which include a 52-yard missed field goal and a missed extra point, and refuses to let the pressure get to him in his rookie season.
“There’s definitely that added pressure, but it’s nothing I’m not expecting to deal with,” Elliott told Jay Morrison of Dayton Daily News. “My whole rhythm going up to that (missed field goal) was just weird. I was just kind of standing back there and just didn’t feel comfortable. I hit it really well, but my line just wasn’t right. (The PAT) was just a bad hit. No excuses.”
The Bengals selected Elliott with the 153rd overall pick in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, higher than any other kicker that year. Elliott’s rigid mindset and ability to not let misses become a trend likely have a lot to do with the Bengals’ administration placing so much value on him. His demeanour is, after all, along the most encouraging things to see from the young Bengals kicker who was bound to see a few hiccups at the very beginning of his career. And after his two misses on Saturday, he bounced back with makes of 32-yards, 35-yards and 51-yards.
“I liked to see that his demeanor was the same. He wasn’t panicked,” said Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons. “On the last one he came and hit it hard and hit it clean, the way he should have been doing the whole time. But he showed he was able to correct it. That’s the positive.”
In fairness, seeing the player expected to resurrect the Bengals’ kicking position make such glaring mistakes is not encouraging. He is going to need to correct those problems if he expected to unseat Randy Bullock as the Bengals’ kicker and make a positive impact once he is in that position. On the bright side, he did make both of his field goals on Monday during the Bengals’ practice.
“Obviously you don’t want to miss,” Simmons added. “He had a little problem down here in pregame warm up on this (south) end, pushing the ball right. We’ve got a pretty decent left to right, wind and he kept pushing them right. So that one, he pulled a little bit left. He over-corrected a little bit. He’s kicked probably five days in a row now. His leg’s a little fatigued. But you’ve still got to make it. It was a PAT he missed. I understand the 52-yarder he missed. But you can’t miss the PAT. That’s the one that most upsets me.”
Luckily, Elliott is in Cincinnati to learn and he’s open to any advice the coaching staff has for him. He seems to be ready to learn how to be great at the next level of something in which he is already very accomplished. Nobody is going to be perfect right away, but the key factor is his willingness to learn from his mistakes and ability to keep those mistakes from affecting his confidence.
“We talked about what went on, what happened and how to fix it,” Simmons explained.
As long as the mistakes made in Saturday’s practice do not become a trend for the Bengals’ newest kicker, there is no reason to worry about Elliott’s ability to positively impact the Bengals’ kicking game. Once the preseason begins on Friday, we’ll be able to further judge Elliott in live game action and see if he seems ready to take on the kicking duties for the Bengals this year and for years to come.