After Awful Start, Nugent Looks To Straighten Things Out (Literally)
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — NFL kickers have a difficult enough job simply fitting in. When that kicker is a second-round draft choice coming off a dismal game, well, finding a place to hide would seem a good idea.
Mike Nugent has a better thought: He’s attacking the problems head-on.
Nugent missed field goals of 34 and 30 yards and, even worse, blew an extra point in the Jets’ 23–16 opening victory at Tennessee. His misses, all wide right, left the Titans in position to rally from a 16–0 hole with two touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions.
Chad Pennington, who had a brilliant game, led the Jets on a touchdown drive to win it — and rescue the 2005 second-round pick from Ohio State.
“Missing an extra point, especially that early in the season, you think about it and what it can cost,” Nugent said. “That’s one of my strengths, the mental approach. After missing the extra point, I missed two very short field goals and there’s no excuse for that.
“My worst opening day was last year, and then I come up with what happened yesterday.”
As a rookie, Nugent slipped on a 28-yard field goal try at Kansas City and had it blocked in an opening loss. He recovered to make 22 of 28 field goals and all 24 PATs.
There was no reason to believe he would struggle at the outset this season. Nugent displayed a strong leg and even stronger mind when kicking in big games at Ohio State, and the Jets expected him to be a reliable weapon for a long time.
He wasn’t very reliable in Tennessee, though, and coach Eric Mangini didn’t exactly give the kicker a solid endorsement. Instead, Mangini said he would discuss the kicking game with special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.
“Mike and I will get together tonight, just like every night,” Mangini said. “We’ll go through the game and the performances across the board, look at what’s out there in terms of opportunities. I don’t mean that exclusively in that one area.”
Nugent understands how tenuous his position can be, although NFL teams usually have more patience with kickers in whom they have invested a high draft pick and a lot of money. Nugent also knows there’s only one way he can react to Sunday’s flop.
“All I can worry about is what I can do to help this team out,” he said. “As long as I’m out there doing my job every week, I’m helping the team.
“The play is over and there is nothing I can do about it now, just make up for it on the next one. Obviously I didn’t do that.”
He was cheered by the response he got from teammates, although such positive words could turn nasty if he can’t split the uprights regularly.
“So many of them took time out to encourage me and saying they know they still can rely on me,” Nugent said.
Nugent comes off a strong preseason, which made his failures in Nashville more surprising. He’ll likely need a quick reversal of fortunes, though, because the Jets and their fans still have bitter memories of Doug Brien missing two field goals in a January 2005 playoff game at Pittsburgh. That’s one reason the Jets used a high pick on Nugent.
“In any kind of game, you always want a chance to go out there and contribute,” Nugent said. “Anything I can do to help the team I want to do, and I was not doing that for my team (in the opener). My teammates and the coaches didn’t deserve to be in that position. We should have had seven more points.
“I can’t let them down.”