NASHVILLE — For the first time since coach Mike Vrabel’s inaugural season with the Tennessee Titans, there is zero drama revolving around the kicking position. 31 other NFL fan bases may read that line and scoff.
If you’ve felt chest tightness any time in the last three years when a kicker trotted out on the field for Tennnessee, however, you know how a big a deal this is.
2018 was the last season that Ryan Succop was fully healthy for the Titans. The now-Tampa Bay Buccaneer signed a five-year, $20 million extension at the end of that year after converting 26 of his 30 field goal attempts (86.7%) and 90.3% of his extra points (28/31). What followed that contract was an absolutely nightmarish 2019 campaign that saw Succop nose dive.
Tennessee used five different place kickers that year en route to the AFC Championship Game, but had continued struggles from that season until very recently.
Titans are finally drama free at kicker
Every Titans fan should be singing the praises of Randy Bullock.
The man most famous for an unfortunately sticky nickname arrived in Tennessee as a practice squad signing last season a day before the team’s opener against the Arizona Cardinals. 2021 looked as if it might keep in line with past kicking misfortunes, given that the Titans had to make a switch at kicker on the eve of their 2021 season opener.
Tennessee placed Sam Ficken on injured reserve with a groin injury after he looked to have won the job handily in the preseason and added kicker Michael Badgley from the practice squad. Badgley missed an extra point and his only field goal attempt in Week 1, again throwing the position into flux. Bullock was signed to the active roster the following week before the team’s road trip to Seattle.
The 11-year veteran tacked an extra point onto each of Tennessee’s three touchdowns that day and 12 critical points off of 4-of-5 field goals to help the Titans best the Seahawks in overtime and secure that season’s first win.
“I feel great,” Bullock told me this week at training camp. “I feel really comfortable with Brett (Kern) and Morgan (Cox) and, obviously with Auk (Craig Aukerman) and Chase (Blackburn). We’ve got a really good relationship. We have fun, we work hard and we do what we need to do.”
Bullock providing stability in Tennessee
It is really all that can be asked of a football team’s kicker: don’t be the problem.
Bullock did precisely that, securing the starting role for the 16 games after Tennessee lost to the Cardinals. He finished the year with the highest field goal percentage (83.9) of any Titans kicker since Succop’s last productive season in 2018. Bullock’s success earned him another opportunity to build upon his success in Nashville, and general manager Jon Robinson rewarded him with a two-year, $4.68 million deal.
Room for kicking improvement, however, would help the Titans elevate themselves even further in an AFC landscape that places a premium on points of any kind.
“We’re always looking to get better at a range of 40-49 yards,” special teams coach Craig Aukerman told me in the Spring. “That’s what we call our ‘money zone.’ If we can be consistent making field goals in that zone, we feel like he can have a pretty good season.”
The aforementioned “money zone” is where Bullock struggled most last year, making 8-of-14 between 40-49 yards.
Should Bullock prove himself capable of growth in that area, Titans fans should feel considerably less chest tightness in the 2022 season.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.