Mike Nugent‘s solid performance this past Sunday should earn him the right to be the Arizona Cardinals placekicker going forward
For the past three months, Arizona Cardinals placekicker Mike Nugent has been waiting for an opportunity. The 38-year old had spent that time on the team’s practice squad, an unfamiliar place for a veteran of 15 NFL campaigns. Regular kicker Zane Gonzalez has struggled this season, but the Cards steadfastly refused to replace him with the accomplished Nugent.
That all changed last weekend when the Cardinals announced that Gonzalez would miss the New York Giants game with a back injury. Nugent would assume the club’s kicking duties for the week 14 matchup, his first action since October of 2019. Would the former second-round draft pick of the New York Jets bring some much-needed stability to the Arizona kicking game?
In a contest that was basically a “must-win” for the Cards, Nugent came through for the organization in a big way. The former Ohio State University product turned in a perfect performance, banging home all six of the kicks he was asked to make against the Giants. Nugent converted all four of his field-goal tries on the day (from 34,37,34 and 30 yards) and was money on two extra-point attempts as well.
Before the news of Gonzalez’s back problem broke last Friday, there was a contingent of Cardinals fans who believed that the 25-year old should be replaced. The Texas native had missed three clutch kicks over the past few weeks, and had made good on just 16 of 22 field-goal attempts in 2020. By comparison, Gonzalez knocked 31 of 35 field-goal tries and 34 of 35 PATs through the uprights in 2019.
The 7-6 Cards are in a position right now where every contest is extremely important. In fact, there are some who believe that Big Red must post victories over the next three weeks to break the franchise’s five-year playoff drought. Arizona has very little margin for error, so head coach Kliff Kingsbury must roll with the players who give his squad the best chance of winning.
And that includes the placekicking position. Gonzalez has been consistently shaky this season, which has made it difficult to feel confident in the youngster going forward. The Cardinals need to continue on with their best option at the moment, and that is why the vastly-experienced Nugent needs to be the choice.