The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to waive rookie kicker Jake Elliott and name veteran Randy Bullock the kicker on the 53-man roster heading into Week 1.
The Bengals will be looking for a much-improved kicking game in 2017 after it was a huge issue for the team in 2016. The hope is Elliott makes it through waivers and onto the Bengals’ practice squad this year.
The Bengals have now cut both of this year’s fifth round picks after also waiving offensive lineman J.J. Dielman this morning.
Bullock joined the Bengals in Week 15 of 2016 season. He went five of six on field goals and six of six on extra points during his first year in Cincinnati, but the one miss was a big one and his only game-winning opportunity for the Bengals.
The Bengals selected Elliott with the 153rd overall pick in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, making him the first kicker drafted this year. With that designation, it seemed like a near-certainty he would make the 53-man roster and be the Bengals’ kicker in 2017. Yet, the Bengals maintained all summer that the kicking competition was real and that Bullock had a fair shot to win the job. And, it proves that was true after Bullock was the clear winner of the kicking battle. Bullock had a great summer while Elliott endured rookie struggles.
In the first three weeks of this year’s 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. In the preseason finale, he had his first miss, a 47-yard attempt with 1:50 remaining in the game. If he made it, the Bengals would have taken the lead. He also made a 31-yard field goal earlier in the night during the fourth preseason game.
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. In the preseason finale, Elliott had two misses, one from 46-yards and one from 60-yards. The miss from 46-yards was unfortunate as it came after defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow was penalized for a false start. Elliott had made the 41-yard attempt that was negated by the penalty.
When the Bengals drafted Elliott, many fans and media criticized the team due to the belief held by many that Zane Gonzalez was the best kicker in this year’s draft. The Cleveland Browns ended up drafting Gonzalez in Round 7 (224th overall pick) and he won their kicking competition and made the 53-man roster in Cleveland.
Hopefully the Bengals made the right call here. The team desperately wants to trust its kicker to be able to win games and convert successful field goal opportunities. That wasn’t the case last year; will it be in 2017?