May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis looks on during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Lewis isn’t a fan of the NFL’s new extra point rules. As a member of the competition committee, Lewis is entitled to his opinion, though heeding it seems to be up for debate. NFL owners decided to change the PAT rules by extending the attempt to the 15-yard-line.
Like it or not, the Cincinnati Bengals and Marvin Lewis will be faced with a largely unfamiliar decision more often in 2015. They’ll have to consider Mike Nugent from 33 yards or the offense from two. They’ll have to consider the weather and circumstances. The decision will consistently be a greater struggle in the coming year.
So, understanding the difficultly of this decision, should Lewis and his staff lean on 33-yard field goal attempts or two-yard offensive plays. Let’s do some examining.
Dec 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) carries the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The obvious thing to consider here is Mike Nugent’s reliability from this range. In 2014, Nugent was 10-12 from 30-39 yards. Across his career, Nugent has gone 61/73 from this distance. With an 83.6% conversion rate, Nugent is largely reliable from this distance. Yet, Mike Nugent also has undergone some cold streaks during his time in Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis has stood by his kicker during the tough times. 2015 will be yet another test for both Nugent and Lewis’ loyalty to him.
On the other side of the equation is the offense. The Bengals have built their offense around the idea of running the ball and calling easier to execute passing plays. By design, Cincinnati is well built for short yardage situations. But is the unit good enough to justify “going for two” versus a 33-yard extra point attempt?
In these situations, all eyes will be on Bengals burgeoning running back Jeremy Hill. At 6’1″, 238 pounds, Hill possesses the size and strength to pound the ball into the end zone, and at times without adequate blocking in front of him. Hill can also catch passes, which adds an element to the play calling.
Yet, the blocking in front of Jeremy Hill should be more than adequate in 2015. The Bengals already possessed an elite offensive line prior to this year’s draft, but they went ahead and drafted two more players in the first and second round. With such a talented line in front of Hill, it’s hard to imagine he would face inauspicious circumstances often.
Beyond Jeremy Hill, the Bengals are loaded with weapons who can get the ball into the end zone. Fullback Ryan Hewitt is another great blocking option in front of Hill, but one that can also catch the ball. Having a dual-threat player like this means defenders will be kept guessing.
Cincinnati also possesses receiving options such as Giovani Bernard and Rex Burkhead from both the backfield and slot. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert can high catch passes. And returning receiver Marvin Jones is a solid possession receiver. Cincinnati has the players to catch passes all over the field on short throws.
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When preparing to face Cincinnati, opposing coaches and teams will have their work cut out for them when trying to defend all of these offensive options. The Bengals can run the ball effectively and can complete short throws with a multitude of weapons. Mike Nugent is a largely reliable option from 30-39, but the Bengals should have a very effective and dynamic short-yardage offense in 2015.
This kind of offense with a creative offensive coordinator to boot means the team should find success from two yards. If the Bengals are as confident as I in their offense, then fans may in fact see many more two-point attempts in 2015. Get ready for the excitement, there won’t be any more of those trips to the refrigerator during extra point attempts this year.