Could a 5th Round Rookie Propel Bengals?

A year removed from picking Joe Burrow with the 1st overall pick, I was hopeful the Bengals would immediately elevate themselves to somewhere around the .500 mark. Realistically, I knew just one offseason wouldn’t propel Cincinnati into Super Bowl or even playoff contention. They made moves. They spent more money on outside free agents than they ever have before. So what was missing? Well, yeah… an offensive line capable of allowing a fluid offense to be run. Sure. But what else?

It didn’t take but one game to pinpoint the issue at hand. Remember that week one, sloppy home game where Joe Burrow took the Bengals down the field in just 3 minutes to almost take the lead over the Chargers? A questionable OPI on A.J. Green eliminated the touchdown, but that wasn’t the end of the world. Randy Bullock was on his way out to tie the game with a 31 yard chip shot. 

“It’s a 31 yard field goal try by Bullock to tie it… OH HE MISSED!” Of course he missed. Randy Bullock wasn’t clutch. And in Joe Burrow’s first career NFL start, the tone that was set wasn’t exactly pretty. 

The shortcomings of Randy Bullock didn’t stop there. In a game where Joe Burrow and the Bengals jumped out to a 21-0 lead against the Colts, things spiraled out of control. The offense couldn’t stay on the field and the defense couldn’t stop 38 year old Philip Rivers. But once again, Joe Burrow put together a drive in the 4th quarter with a chance to retake the lead. Bullock’s 48 yard FG attempt, which would’ve put the Bengals ahead 30-28, missed. The Colts would later get a FG of their own and the Bengals could no longer kick a FG to win the game. A touchdown was needed. 

There were situations where missed kicks in low-leverage situations cost the team many times. For example, the loss in Washington in 2020. While Bullock’s two missed kicks that day weren’t the worst news to come from the day (Joe Burrow’s knee injury), they still put the team in less-than-ideal situations. 

I could go on and on about Randy Bullock. He wasn’t a bad kicker by any means. But this is supposed to be the new Bengals. “Not bad” won’t cut it for them. It won’t cut it for Joe Burrow. A great QB always needs a great kicker. An elite QB-Kicker duo is the most slept on duo in sports.  Enter Evan McPherson. 

Most 5th round draft picks fight for roster spots and in the scenario that they make the roster, they normally do not contribute right away. McPherson though, is a different story. He doesn’t face the training camp battle that a defensive end or wide receiver would. He’s THE guy. This isn’t a Jake Elliott situation either.

McPherson made all but 1 of his 150 extra point attempts in his 3 years of college. He made 17 of 19 field goal attempts in each of his first two years while making 17 of 22 in 2020. Oh, and he did this…

The Bengals, like every other team, are going to find themselves in close games in 2021. But normally the teams that get good play out of their kickers come out on top. McPherson could be the reason why the Bengals win 10 games instead of 7. Or maybe, he’s the reason the Bengals win 7 games instead of 10…

Logan Vaughn

I write about Cincinnati sports in my free time.

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