The beauty of NFL football is that big changes can come where you least expect them. For the Cincinnati Bengals, big results could be obtained with an under-the-radar tweak to the starting lineup.
Changing starting punters.
During training camp, longtime veteran Kevin Huber beat out 2021 UDFA Drue Chrisman for the job despite the latter having the better numbers. With that, Huber went on and imposed a record for most games played in Bengals history.
Unfortunately, despite the historic feat, things have not gone as well as hoped for Huber.
In fact, Cincinnati’s coaching staff is already looking into the possibility of benching the veteran for Chrisman, the former Ohio State Buckeye.
“We’re not getting out of it what we need to get out of it, in terms of flipping the field. It’s something we’ll take a look at over this bye week and try to figure out what the best thing is going forward.”
Chrisman remains on the team’s practice squad, which means a change would be easy to execute if the Bengals decide to make a change this week.
I’ve always thought football fans fall into one of two categories. Those who make a quick run to the bathroom when the punt team comes out (or to get a beer from the fridge), and those who intently keep watching the on-field action until the break comes on.
The second group knows how big a change at punter could be. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
The Bengals’ defense ranks as the eighth-best in the NFL per Football Outsiders’ DVOA. However, they’re not helped out a lot by their special teams. Bengals’ opponents start on their own 29-yard line on average. That’s good for the 11th-worst mark in the NFL. They’re consistently put in a bad position.
The constant losses in the tug-of-war battle that is “flipping the field” is also felt on the other side of the ball. Joe Burrow leads an offense that ranks 11th in the NFL in yards per drive but their average field position ranks 24th.
Football Outsiders’ does a great job compiling special teams’ efficiency metrics and those also paint a bleak picture of the Bengals’ special teams as they’re the 4th-least efficient punting team in the league.
The website also keeps track of “hidden points” which are defined as the “advantage teams have received from elements of special teams generally out of their control: opposing field goals, kickoff distance, and punt distance.”
The Bengals rank 31st in the NFL in that metric, meaning they’re put at a great disadvantage because of their special teams.
Benching Huber isn’t a guarantee that punting will get better. Chrisman would still need to prove he can do it better. However, it’s clear the team could use a change when they exit the bye week.
Featured image via Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports