Randy Bullock’s first impression on the Cincinnati Bengals and fans was poor. However, his 2017 should have put him back in the team’s good graces.
Cincinnati Bengals fans have indeed been through the ringer as it relates to kickers. To start the 2016 season, longtime Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed several crucial field goals. Before the Bengals cut him, Nugent kicked only 79%, and even worse in the 4th quarter. To fill the kicker void, the team signed veteran Randy Bullock.
Bullock was a star kicker at Texas A&M, or as close to a star as a kicker can be. He finished his career as the all-time leading scorer in Aggies history. Bullock also won the Lou Groza Award his senior year, as well as making All-American First Team. This success earned him the top kicker prospect in the 2012 draft and a fifth-round pick of the Texans.
Bullock was solid for Houston for the first few years of his career. He kicked 80% before being released in 2015. Bullock did a few briefs stints around the country before the Bengals signed him in late 2016.
Bullock certainly did not ingratiate himself well with Bengals fans to start his time in Cincinnati. Playing his old team, the Texans, Bullock missed the potential game-winning field goal as time expired. Although he made every other kick that season, that miss left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Then, the Bengals drafted Jake Elliot in the 2017 draft but cut him in favor of Bullock. Elliot went on to make a crucial 61-yard game-winning field goal during the season and win the Super Bowl in Philadelphia.
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While all this history shines a negative light on Bullock, he had a stellar 2017 season. He made 18/20 field goals with a long of 51 yards (the longest he attempted), good for a 90% conversion rate. 90% is the highest mark of Bullock’s career. He also made 31/33 extra points, good for a 94% conversion rate. Neither of these numbers particularly jump off the page, but Bullock’s percentages last year were excellent.
To put Bullock’s conversion rates into context, let’s look at how he stacked up versus the rest of the NFL Bullock’s 90% on field goals ranked among the top ten of all kickers, most of whom still missed more attempts than Bullock. Although he missed two extra points, Bullock still ranked in the top 20 in the NFL on extra point percentage. Most importantly, Bullock outpaced Elliot in both categories. Elliot had an 84% field goal percentage (6 points worse than Bullock) and a 93% extra point percentage (1 point worse than Bullock).
Another critical aspect of Bullock’s kicking last year was his success in clutch situations. The biggest issue Bengals fans have had with the position in recent years is the misses in tight games. While Nugent indeed failed the team in this regard, Bullock was reliable in close games last season. Bullock made all 6 of his attempts when the team was down last year and made both of his attempts during tie games. Moreover, he was a perfect 4/4 in the 4th quarter of games. Bullock’s season-long 51-yard kick even came during the 4th quarter in a tight game versus Detroit.
Objectively, Bullock was actually reasonably solid last season for the Bengals. Because of previous events, many fans don’t view Bullock very fondly. However, by looking at the stats and splits, it’s clear Bullock is a viable option moving forward at kicker for the Bengals. In fact, he may even be better than Elliot. Either way, Bullock proved himself to be reliable in 2017, and he should be just as good in 2018.