July 25, 2014

2010 Trouble Spots: Special Teams

Mike Nugent's recovery is an important factor in determining the future of Cincinnati's special teams

In our heroic quest to keep covering the Bengals even though there’s no actual football to write about, we’re going to take a look back at a few things that derailed the 2010 season.

There were numerous reasons the Bengals took a step backward in 2010, but one of the biggest reasons was uneven play on special teams. In the Bengals game against the New York Jets, which was recently re-aired on the NFL Network, was a prime example. The Bengals led at halftime, but Aaron Pettrey missed a chip-shot field goal, a punt bounced off Andre Caldwell’s helmet, and Brad Smith returned a kickoff for a touchdown to turn another Bengals victory into defeat.

So I wasn’t too surprised to see that the Bengals ranked 28th overall in a Football Outsiders analysis of special teams. The statheads at Football Outsiders examined various factors of special teams and compared them with league averages to determine an aggregate total.

The Bengals were behind the league averages in every category except punting. After Mike Nugent’s season-ending injury, the revolving door of replacements certainly hurt Cincinnati’s kicking game. If Nugent returns at a high level, there’s at least a reasonable expectation for improvement there. Otherwise, with a few less injuries overall (defensive back was especially ravaged) and the influx of a few more players (Dontay Moch could be a great special teamer), the Bengals could improve in other areas as well.

Thus, when the Bengals’ season begins again, there’s a good chance it will be better than the last one – at least as far as special teams are concerned.

Click the image for the full statistics from Football Outsiders