Bengals’ Mike Nugent: Is He the Right Kicker?


Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent (2) kicks a field goal against the Indianapolis Colts in the second quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is concerned about the kicking game in light of the NFL’s new PAT rules.  And he’s especially worried about its impact on the AFC North.

"“I think our division is going to be affected by it more than any other in football. Because all four teams are outside, we are all going to get bad weather at some point in the season, and I do think it’s going to play a big part.”"

Lewis has expressed not being a fan of the new rules since their inception earlier this offseason when NFL owners decided to make the play more interesting by making kickers attempt PATs from the 15-yard-line.  This will force coaches, like Lewis, to make difficult decisions at times as to whether the best opportunity to add points comes on the leg of his kicker or on the backs of the offense from the two-yard-line.

The Bengals have an offensive roster that would presumably give them a great chance to “punch it in for two” early and often.  But in order to totally set a coach’s mind at ease in light of the new PAT rules, one must possess a quality and reliable kicker.  Although the Bengals have steadfastly stood by Mike Nugent despite struggling at times, is he really the kicker who Cincinnati can rely upon, as his moments to shine only get tougher?

“I think adding the defense to score is a great opportunity, a good part of it. But I think moving the ball back, kicking the ball from the 15 yard line, which is virtually a 33-yard kick, you’re going to see quite a few missed PATs, more than people understand.”

Mike Nugent has largely been a source of inconsistency on a team that seeks such a presence more than most; ironically, it’s likely the reason Nugent is still with the team.  Nugent has struggled to find consistency since joining the NFL in 2005.  His first three seasons were spent in up and down fashion while kicking for the Jets.  In his fourth season, he suffered a quadriceps injury, and was replaced by a more effective Jay Feely who kept Nugent on the bench.

Nugent then had a quick stint in Arizona and another in Tampa Bay during the 2009 season.  It wasn’t until the 2010 season that Nugent signed with the Bengals.

With the Bengals, Mike Nugent’s inconsistency has continued.  His first season with the Bengals was marred by injury, as he kicked in only nine games for the team.  Nugent recovered in 2011 as he converted nearly 87% of his kicks, though it’s worth noting that he was only 5-8 from 30-39 yards.  In light of the NFL’s recent rule changes, accuracy from this distance becomes all the more important.

In 2012, the injury bug returned for Nugent, as he missed four games.  Since 2012, Nugent has completed just 80.8% of his kicks, though he is 21/24 from 30-39 yards during this span.  The 2014 season was a microcosm of Nugent’s career.  He began the year by completing just 11/17 attempts in Cincinnati’s first six games.

After this time, he went 15/16 with his only miss coming in the final regular season game of the year; Nugent also hit a 57-yard field goal against the Colts in the team’s lone playoff game of the year.  Long field goals haven’t been Nugent’s forte across his career as he typically lacks the requisite combination of leg strength and accuracy from such a distance.  He is only 9/22 from 50+ yards in his career.

Mike Nugent re-signed with the Bengals this offseason, so I don’t expect him to be replaced before the coming season.  With that said, it doesn’t mean Mike Nugent is the best kicker for the job.  His inconsistency has been troubling at several points in his career, which culminated in last year’s overtime miss against Carolina, a 36-yard miss that forced the game to end in a tie; this without mentioning the injuries that have kept Nugent from the field at times.  The Bengals have committed to Mike Nugent in the coming year, but seeking out a future kicker for the job should be a priority for the team going forward.

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