Boy, was it good to see Jake Elliott kick a 50-yard field goal in live game action, or what?
The glory was relatively short lived though as later on in the Cincinnati Bengals’ final preseason game, Elliott lined up to kick a 41-yard field goal and made it, only for there to be a penalty by Ryan Glasgow that negated the kick. The penalty backed Elliott up to the 46-yard line, from where he missed his second kick of the preseason. This, with 4:47 minutes remaining in the game.
Jake Elliott drills it.... pic.twitter.com/RipITdHCnZ— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) September 1, 2017
But a penalty pushed him five yards back and this happened. pic.twitter.com/dQT0Dju0Rq— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) September 1, 2017
It seemed like that would seal Elliott’s roster fate and hand incumbent Randy Bullock the kicking job this year.
But minutes later, Bullock missed his first kick of the preseason, a 47-yard attempt with 1:50 remaining in the game.
Suddenly, the Bengals went from having a solid kicker situation to a very uncertain one. Bullock was clearly upset, standing on the sidelines staring off into space, with punter Kevin Huber trying to console him.
Bullock joined the Bengals for the final three games of the 2016 NFL season and his only miss during those games was a game-winning attempt against the Houston Texans. Bullock once again had a chance to win the game for the Bengals, this time in a meaningless preseason game, and failed.
If Bullock can’t make his kicks when the pressure is highest, that’s certainly not a good sign for his long-term future with the Bengals and in the NFL.
In trying one last time to win the game, the Bengals sent Elliott out for a 60-yard field goal attempt with two seconds remaining. It looked good at the start, but ended up going wide left.
Elliott from 60.... enough leg, but wide left. pic.twitter.com/CnaxLkwJhk— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) September 1, 2017
The Bengals lost to the Colts 7-6 to end the misery that was this year’s preseason.
In the final five minutes of the game, the Bengals missed three field goals and suddenly have a real question as to which kicker is making the roster.
After the game, head coach Marvin Lewis was asked about the kicking situation and said he feels “very confident” with both of the kickers on the current roster.
“I do. I do feel very confident,” Lewis said. “I think we’ve done enough and we’ve tried each and every kick so when we make the decision we feel very confident with that. Most importantly is I think the team will feel very confident. Now, confidence—all you do is remember the last one—but I think the team is very confident. And that’s a good thing."
Should he be so confident?
The Bengals will need to make a call on which kicker stays with the team by Saturday at 4:00 p.m. when the roster officially must be cut down to 53 players.
To back up, the rookie kicker missed a 45-yard field goal in the third week of the preseason that made the Bengals’ kicking competition seem real for the first time. The Bengals had been saying all offseason the kicking competition was real, but did you believe them?
After the Bengals selected Elliott in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, making him the first kicker drafted this year, it seemed like a near-certainty he would make the 53-man roster and be the Bengals’ kicker in 2017.
Prior to Thursday night’s game, Bullock had a remarkable summer. He was near perfect (one reported miss) in all of training camp. Meanwhile, Elliott had a few misses in camp, including two during the Bengals’ family day scrimmage inside Paul Brown Stadium.
In the first three weeks of the preseason, Bullock was perfect, connecting on 54- and 49-yard field goals in the first preseason game, a 47-yard field goal and 26-yard field goal in the second preseason game and a 53-yard field goal and extra point in the third preseason game.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” Bullock said after Thursday’s game. “Any time you go out there you want to make your kicks regardless of the situation whether it is preseason or not. To kick throughout the course of the game you have to do your job. So it absolutely is frustrating.”
As for Elliott, he made a 45-yard field goal and extra point in Week 1 of the preseason. In Week 2 of the preseason he notched a 32-yard field goal and 39-yarder, too. But in the third preseason game, Elliott only made an extra point and failed on a 45-yarder, his first miss in live game action.
On Thursday night in their last attempt at proving who better deserves to be the Bengals’ kicker this season, Bullock made a 31-yard field goal and Elliott the 50-yarder mentioned above before both went on to miss the rest of their attempts (that counted).
Who’s going to make the 53-man roster? Well, I said Bullock earlier in the week, but now I’m going with Elliott. If Bullock can’t win games for the Bengals (and he’s now failed on both of his attempts—one last year and one on Thursday) there’s no use in keeping him around. He’s played with five different NFL teams for a reason and though it seemed he improved this summer, Thursday night’s miss was tough to swallow.
The Bengals are likely better off going with a young guy who has a higher ceiling and room for improvement. Hopefully Elliott can gain some confidence back by winning the job and figure out how to be the kicker the Bengals need this season and for years to come.
This pretty much sums it up...