Due to the fact that a Pro Bowl kicker Dan Bailey is out from the team, for at least a few weeks, safety Jeff Heath was forced to take on the kicking duties last game. Although Heath did not have a lot of time to prepare and he actually hasn’t had that kind of a contact with the ball since high school, to be honest, he did pretty well. But it is only logical to assume that this kind of luck will not happen again which is the reason for singing someone a little more experienced and let’s say “up-to-date.” That is where Nugent comes to picture.
We are all aware that Bailey is the most accurate kicker in NFL history and that he is that kind of player who will make possible for the offense to score points even when they are on the 60-yard line. Nugent will never get that close, but he is definitely a lot smarter choice than the safety Jeff Heath. If you are not aware Nugent this summer finished a training camp battle for the Giants kicking role, and before that he was a starting kicker for the Bengals since 2010. This only proves that this man is not green and inexperienced, he has around 10 years NFL starting experience after all. But you are probably most interested in his stats and what he can bring to Cowboys, well here it is.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight. If you think that Cowboys brought him in to be their booming kicker with sniper distance, you are very wrong. Due to his power limitations, he will never be that sort of kicker, and those limitations will influence two areas of the kicking game. First one is related to the number of touchbacks which guarantee minimal starting field position. Here are the stats:
BAILEY (2016): 91 kickoffs, 57 touchbacks, 63% TB rate
BAILEY (2015): 73 kickoffs, 49 touchbacks, 67% TB rate
NUGENT (2016): 63 kickoffs, 28 touchbacks, 44% TB rate
NUGENT (2015): 89 kickoffs, 42 touchbacks, 47% TB rate
As you can see Nugent has a sub 50% touchback rate which places him below average as opposed to other starting NFL kickers. The most likely thing that may pull out Cowboys ahead as more returns may actually help their field position.
The second limitation is Nugent’s less powerful legs and his long range inconsistency, and the stats show this:
FG’s from 50+ yards
BAILEY (2012-16): 22 of 31 (71%)
NUGENT (2012-16): 6 of 15 (40%)
When you look at these stats, everything is clear as a day. From here only one thing goes into Nugent’s advantage, and it’s the fact that Cowboys have kicked only once from 50+ yards in seven FG attempts in 2017, and only four tries were recorded in the last 22 games. Nugent is never going to be or even come close to Bailey when it comes to kicking from a distance, but hey, he has a lot better stats when he is closer to goal. Check this out:
FG’s from 0-49 yards:
BAILEY (2014-16): 69 of 74 (93%)
NUGENT (2014-16): 70 of 81 (86%)
A massive improvement for Nugent here with 86% from 49 or closer and it is highly reliable scoring, but it will definitely won’t help him become a Hall of Fame kicker like Bailey. What all of this translates to is that if Cowboys reach at least the 32-yard line to attempt 10 kicks, Nugent will make 8 or 9 of them.
The bear end to all of this is that Nugent is a necessary “evil” for the Cowboys, and right now he is the only one that can even remotely replace Dallas’ most reliable scorer. Yes, the returns will definitely increase, but a top 10 coverage unit should remain steady. Just be aware that this is a temporary fix and for that matter, Dallas choose a solid leg. Let’s just hope that Bailey will not be out for long.