by Matthew Pedroza FanSided
Kicker Mike Nugent has struggled mightily in the first two preseason games. His competition, Zach Hocker, practiced for the first time in a while.
NFL journey Zach Hocker participated in practice for the first time in a long time on Sunday. Seeing Hocker in a Bengals uniform lets the current kicker #1 on the depth chart, Mike Nugent, know that the kicking battle is beginning.
Nugent has been quite underwhelming thus far in the first two preseason games. Nuge has missed two field goals (45-yards and 48 yards) and 1 PAT in his uncontested kicking position. To his credit, Nugent hasn’t shied away from addressing his kicking woes. After the Lions game, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “I’m not in any way, shape or form am I happy. I kicked pathetically tonight. I was just terrible tonight and I’ve just got to learn from it.”
The unfortunate thing for Nugent is that this isn’t new to the Bengals or their fans. Marvin Lewis seems to be quite fond of Nugent.
Less than a year ago, the Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs kicker, Cairo Santos, went 7 for 7 on field goals, including a 51 yarder, and Nugent missed two field goals.
After the game, Marvin Lewis said “Mike’s missed two for us which we can’t have. He’s better than that and we expect better out of him than that.” At that point, Nugent was ranked 28th out of 30th kickers in terms of field goal percentage.
Nugent did bounce back (in a way) and make some big field goals for the Bengals (one of those was a kick against the Seahawks in overtime as time expired that hit off the left upright). But, even missing a field goal in the first, second, or third quarters are momentum killers, and in a game where players thrive on momentum, that’s the last thing these Bengals need. Every point counts in a very much improved AFC North.
Nugent’s main competition, Zach Hocker, has had his fair share of kicking troubles during his short NFL career. He’s struggled to make teams as both the Redskins and Dolphins cut him before the 2015 season. He then won the kicking job in New Orleans but missed 4 of 13 attempted field goals. He was waived after missing the potential game-winning field goal against the Dallas Cowboys. After a short stint with the Rams, he finds himself in Cincinnati alongside a struggling Mike Nugent.
Which leads to the main question: Are the Bengals being TOO loyal? Could it be that one of their biggest attributes may also be one of their biggest weaknesses? I’ve often commented and wrote about how the Bengals are a model franchise in the way that they’ve treated their players. The kicking position has become a churn-and-burn position in the NFL, and teams have a carousel of players that they go through in a season. It’s time that Nugent faces true competition. If nothing else, it’ll push him to be better. Worst case scenario, we say goodbye to Nugent and hello to a new era.