In one of our Cincinnati Bengals mailbags this weekend, a comment was made about the lack of special team love on the blog.
The questioner was right. There hasn't been much lately about Cincinnati's special-teamers here of late. Unless your team has very real and pressing special-teams questions, this time of year, it's tough to find much coverage on that particular unit on most any of the 32 teams. Quarterback controversies, defensive line depth-chart battles and running back merry-go-rounds are en vogue. Fans typically want to know more about that than how the field goal team's holder is getting snaps down.
Rest assured, the fielding of the long snap and the placement of the football for the kicker is an integral part of the game. It's so integral that as we've seen often over the years, it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
But when it comes to headlines and interest, readers have many other curiosities. Still, to appease our lacking attention to special teams, we're going to make up for it by looking at a trend you can be sure Bengals kicker Mike Nugent hopes will move more favorably this season.
Monday's Bengals factoid: 73.4
Since getting selected by the Jets in the second round of the 2005 draft, Nugent has nailed 73.4 percent of his field goals between 40-49 yards. That number includes regular season and postseason field goals attempted. Among kickers with 100 or more field goal attempts since 2005, Nugent ranks 27th in his success rate between those distances.
That ranking might seem rather low, but consider this: He's one of three current AFC North kickers represented in that top 27. Cleveland's Billy Cundiff, who spent parts of two seasons since 2005 kicking in the sometimes harrowing conditions First Energy Stadium's proximity to Lake Erie can provide, ranks eighth, making 80.6 percent of the field goals he made between 40-49 yards. Cundiff also spent parts of four other seasons kicking in Baltimore.
Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham, who has been kicking for the Steelers since 2010, ranks 17th, making 78.0 percent of his kicks between 40-49 yards.
The reason it's important to mention the AFC North when discussing the challenges of kicking is because of the wide array of weather conditions that often arise in that division. On virtually any given weekend after September, any combination of snow, rain, sleet, hail and wind can make the fields in the division sloppy and the ball's in-flight path to the goal posts a winding journey. Footing and accuracy are of utmost importance in this division.
It's also relevant to point out that the AFC North is one of three divisions in the league that doesn't have at least one domed stadium in it. The other two divisions without domed teams at least have franchises in South Florida and California. True, conditions at Sun Life Stadium can be difficult at times, too. But at least they don't have to deal with snow and sleet there.
While the stadium conditions are a good factor to keep in mind, the broader point here is that 73.4 percent isn't that high in the grand scheme of things. If the Bengals are forced into taking several kicks in the 40-49-yard range this season, they certainly would be glad to see his percentage there increase by the end of this season. Maybe it will.
If you take away his 6 for 9 showing from between 40-49 yards during the 2012 season, Nugent has actually started trending well from that distance. In 2011, he made 14 of his 16 attempts from there. Then last season, he was 8-for-10, including hitting a game-winner at Buffalo in Week 6. The week after that make in overtime, he nailed a 54-yarder as time expired at Detroit.
He was 3-for-4 from beyond 50 yards last season, but he's only 9-for-20 throughout his career.
It's in the clutch where Nugent made his money last season, and as long as he continues producing in the final minutes of a ballgame, the Bengals don't really care whether he's making his 40-yard-plus kicks at a high rate or not.
Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.