It might not exactly make for headline news, short of drafting a mediocre kicker in the second round, but the Cincinnati Bengals are having themselves a bit of a placekicker competition this offseason after moving on from veteran Mike Nugent last season in the midst of an inconsistent performance that they are hoping to avoid repeating.
Last season, the Bengals ranked 24th in the league with their kickers posting a field goal success rate of just 80 percent for the year, successfully hitting on only 28 of 35 field goal attempts over the course of the year.
While three of the misses came from 50 yards or beyond, and another three came from a distance of at least 40 yards, there is no comparable excuse for the lowly performance and execution on point-after attempts, a category in which they did very nearly as poorly, and very nearly the worst in the league.
Over the span of the year, Cincinnati connected on just 29 of 35 extra point attempts, meaning that they were literally one kick more successful with point-after attempts than with field goal attempts. Their 83 percent success rate was tied for second-worst in the league, ahead of only the Vikings, who missed seven of 33 attempts.
And they had one blocked. The Seahawks, who also went 29-for-35, had a mind-boggling five blocked. Only one other team even had three extra points blocked, with the vast majority of teams suffering either one or no blocked extra point attempts.
The Bengals’ combined kicking performance in terms of field goals and extra points was the worst in the league, which is why they have hoped to start it all over, and they are currently in the midst of not just an ordinary kicking battle, but a three-way kicking battle.
And candidate number one is a familiar face in Randy Bullock. He spent two games on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster a year ago, kicking in one game (hitting all three attempts) while Chris Boswell was dealing with an injury.
The Bengals signed Bullock after the Steelers released him and he kicked in three games for Cincinnati, making five of six field goal attempts and all six extra point attempts. Unfortunately, his lone miss was an end-of-regulation potential game-winner in a 12-10 loss to the Texans from 43 yards out.
He’s not the only candidate, though. The Bengals drafted Jake Elliott in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and Jon Brown, a rookie minicamp tryout signing with a soccer background—and a rare African-American at the position. All three of them have been given extensive opportunities during OTAs and minicamp to kick.
The Bengals’ special-teams coordinator acknowledged that it has been unprecedented in his tenure to see the team attempt so many field goals at this time of the year, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. But when you have three kickers you’re looking at, attempting 90 kicks over 13 practices doesn’t sound as ridiculous, I suppose. And it won’t have been in vein if they are able to find an answer.