The lone offseason roster battle for the Cincinnati Bengals occurred at punter. Kevin Huber, the 14-year veteran, put up a fight good enough to fend off second-year specialist Drue Chrisman during training camp and the preseason.
This was discernible because Chrisman wasn’t bad at all when his opportunities arose. In fact, Chrisman bested Huber in yards per punt by 5.5 yards, net yards per punt by 7.1, and had the longest punt at a distance of 65 yards. But it was Huber’s better average hang-time (4.46 to Chrisman’s 4.3) and percentage of punts that weren’t returned (40% to Chrisman’s 28.6%) that made special teams coordinator stick to his punter of the last decade-plus.
After eight weeks of regular season action, it might be time for Simmons to reverse that decision.
Huber has been more of a liability than an asset in recent weeks. Since Week 5, he’s 31st in net yards per punt (33.9), 30th in average yards per return (17.0), 29th in hang time (4.21), and has had multiple shanks in the last two weeks alone. If you value punter grades from Pro Football Focus, he’s last in the league with a 44.1 in this stretch of weeks.
Simply put, he’s been bad, and that looks bad for the coaching staff who picked him over a much younger option.
Chrisman wasn’t perfect in month leading up to the season, but it’d be hard for him to look worse than the 37-year-old Huber at this point. Chrisman’s power would be welcomed as field position becomes more integral with a struggling offense. Eliminating the now weekly shanks would also be a nice development.
Huber winning the competition meant he could set the record for most games ever played in Bengals history. His new record, which he set in Week 1, currently sits at 215, and only Clark Harris (206) is remotely close.
The record is rightfully Huber’s, as he’s been an outstanding Bengal since being drafted in 2009. That he’s played this long in the city he was born in, grew up in, and played college ball in is nothing short of a fairytale. Hell, he even crossed the 1,000 punts threshold this year. Only Sam Koch has more career punts while playing on the same team his entire career.
Huber deserves his flowers, all of them, but the time to move on can’t wait until next year when there’s so much of the season left, and his downward trajectory has shown no signs of easing up.
Chrisman remains on the practice squad, and the time to call him up is now.