In the weeks since the completion of the NFL draft, I have been looking at the various position groups in an effort to shed light on where the team currently stands with their personnel and to foreshadow needed moves once free agency begins. You can see the history of these articles in my archives. Today, I focus on the specialists.
Special teams is sometimes overlooked in the NFL, but not here in Cincinnati. After the 2006 season ended with consecutive games lost late in the game after bad snaps and missed field goals, derailing an attempt at back to back playoff berths, a lot of heat was placed in the seat of former long snapper Brad St. Louis. That heat reached its boiling point in 2009, when multiple games were affected by comically bad snaps and St. Louis was given the Jim Lippencott treatment and shown the door. Former Houston Texan Clark Harris was brought in to replace St. Louis and helped to solidify the team and propel them to the division championship. Later that season, Shayne Graham missed two field goals in the playoff loss to the Jets and our ‘franchise player’ was not retained. To replace him, the Bengals signed former Ohio State and New York Jets kicker Mike Nugent, who made 15 of 19 field goals and all 17 extra point attempts before he tore his ACL attempting an onside kick against the Colts. The team tried out free agent kicker Aaron Peattrey, but he was cut after two games and replaced by Clint Stitser, a college free agent who went 7 for 8 on field goals to finish the season. The punting duties are handled by Kevin Huber, the former Cincinnati Bearcat standout who was taken in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. Huber has been solid, placing 28 punts inside the 20 yard line versus 6 touchbacks with a 42 yard average.
Best case scenario: As long as Harris keeps snapping and Nugent keeps making field goals and PATs, it’s hard to complain about these guys.
Worst case scenario: Nugent had a pretty nasty injury, and it will be interesting to see if that has any psychological ramifications on his kicking going forward.
Another Possibility: Stitser accounted for himself pretty well late in the season and may push Nugent for the job. Harris and Huber seem to be pretty safe in their roles.
Outlook: The only real concern is the injury to Nugent, and we seem to have a decent secondary option with Stitser. It will be a nice battle for Training Camp should that day ever roll around.