Bengals evaluating potential punter change, less concerned about McPherson’s misses

CINCINNATI -- Evan McPherson says he isn’t worried about his first slump in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals might have a more concerning issue on special teams to address during the bye week.

The team’s second-year kicker missed field goals in back-to-back games and had a failed point-after attempt in that stretch, but says he’s already put those behind him. McPherson said he plans to refocus by playing a lot of golf and going to visit his brother at Auburn during the five-day break the Bengals get during this bye week.

Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said while he’s a little concerned about the misses, it’s not a big deal at this point. He’s more perplexed by punter Kevin Huber’s struggles.

“He’s been struggling a little bit,” Simmons said of Huber. “It’s no secret. He’d be the first to tell you that. He’s got himself in a bit of a slump, too. He made a great analogy. He’s great on the practice range he’s just not taking it to the first tee. His practices have been pretty solid. His pregame warmups have been pretty solid. He’s just not taking it to the game. He’s got to figure out how to get that from the range to the first tee. He’s just not doing a very good job of that right now.”

The Bengals still have Drue Chrisman hanging around on the practice squad, and he’s been in uniform going through drills on the field before games, which Simmons said was intentional to give him that simulation of going through the normal routine of a full game week.

Asked if it is realistic to make a punter change coming out of a bye, Simmons said “that’s something” to consider.

“We’ve constantly been evaluating this whole thing,” Simmons said. “Obviously, our punting game has got to improve. 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.”

Simmons said the punting issues have been building for a while now. McPherson’s struggles have been more unusual. He missed a potential game-winning field goal in the opener against Pittsburgh and had a point-after attempt blocked but those occurred with an emergency long snapper.

McPherson has one other missed field goal, a 41-yarder in a win over the New York Jets.

“I don’t know that I can really put a finger on it other than the fact that he just pulled a couple balls,” Simmons said. “I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the execution. I think a lot of it probably has to do with his foot position on the ball.

“One thing I’ve found with him is you can’t dwell on anything too much with him. You have to let good or bad roll off of his back and let him go out and react and go to the next kick. ... I’m a little concerned about it, but I’m trying not to make too big of a deal about it. It’s something he’s got to get worked out here over the course of the next couple weeks.”

McPherson was coming off an incredible rookie season in which he made 28 of 33 field goal attempts in the regular season (he’s 11 of 15 this season) and made all 14 of his kicks in the playoffs. He had five game-winning kicks last year, including in the AFC North-title clinching win over Kansas City, the second-round playoff win at Tennessee and in the AFC Championship.

The 2021 fifth-round draft pick said he still feels like he’s “in a good place” in his kicking, his preparation and mental focus.

“I go out there and I do my best and if the ball doesn’t go through the uprights, then we just kind of move on and go to the next one,” McPherson said. “I mean, we definitely all have our struggles. And right now, it’s just, I guess, get on a roll, getting confidence back. And we’re just gonna keep going.

Simmons pointed out that McPherson missed seven field goal attempts in a practice before one of those playoff games when he made all four of his attempts, either the Titans game or the AFC Championship. McPherson believes he will bounce back just like he did then.

“It’s not gonna affect how I do this season,” he said. “So you can really just believe that I’m gonna bounce back. I mean, those two kicks don’t matter at all now. You can’t do anything about them. So just going to keep going and get better.”

Bengals-Steelers game flexed

The Bengals-Steelers matchup on Nov. 20 in Pittsburgh has been flexed out of the Sunday Night Football slot and will be played at 4:25 p.m., the NFL announced Tuesday. The Chiefs-Chargers game will replace the Bengals-Steelers on prime time on NBC. The Bengals-Steelers game will be broadcast on CBS.

NEXT GAME

SUNDAY, NOV. 20

Bengals at Steelers, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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