Here’s a kicker: rookie Elliott looks to be Bengals’ booter

Jake Elliott of the Memphis Tigers tries a 48-yard field goal against the Houston Cougars in a 2015 game in Houston.

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Jake Elliott of the Memphis Tigers tries a 48-yard field goal against the Houston Cougars in a 2015 game in Houston.

You don’t see a lot of stories about NFL kickers in the offseason, but the Bengals’ kickers -- yes, that’s plural -- are making for some water cooler talk because, well, the Bengals aren’t really sure if they have a kicker even after drafting Jake Elliott in the fifth round.

Given the folly of predicting what a kicker will do on even one kick, let alone a season’s worth, Elliott is no lock to make the team, which will open training camp two weeks from Friday, on July 28. His stats were solid at Memphis, where he made 78 percent of his field goals and all 198 of his PATs, but the NFL is another level.

Elliott knows, telling Bengals radio voice Dan Hoard and bengals.com, "Nothing in this league is given and everything has to be earned. I look forward to competing and hopefully winning the job."

Kicking can be a little crazy.

Just look at last year, when Cincinnati was compelled to release former Ohio State and Centerville High School star Mike Nugent late in a season where the 12-year veteran made a modest 23-of-29 field goals and a much less impressive still 23-of-29 PATs. (Nugent, by the way, remains a free agent and this spring told SB Nation that he has no plans to retire.)

The Bengals signed journeyman Randy Bullock to finish out the season, and he's still on the roster along with Elliott and Jonathan Brown, a project who kicked in just four games in college, for Louisville, went to camp with Cincinnati last summer, and ended up injured.

The former college soccer player has never even tried a field goal or a PAT in a college game, let alone in the NFL, but team officials are intrigued by his leg strength and he’ll get a shot in camp and preseason games.

Elliott arrives with quite a resume as the first kicker chosen in the 2017 NFL draft.

He was first-team All-AAC (All-American Conference) four times, and is Memphis’ all-time leading scorer with 438 points. He also kicked the four longest field goals in school history at 56, 54, 53, 53 yards.

Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons got to know Elliott a little at the Senior Bowl, and worked him out privately at Memphis last spring.

“I think he’s very coachable,” Simmons told bengals.com. “That was easy to see right away with a couple of adjustments that we tried to make right after the workout was over . . . He has a very calm demeanor. It was a tough day in Memphis that day that I worked him out. The wind was probably blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour and he never flinched.

“Some specialists have a tendency to be, ‘Woe is me,’ because of the weather. We were supposed to start kicking around two o’clock and there was a torrential downpour. We just stayed inside and watched video for a little bit and went out when the weather was nice. He never flinched with any of that and it was good to see that he’s got some composure.”

The Bengals won’t know what they have in Elliott until competition begins, and he and Bullock and Brown are placed in game situations, but they know they have a bright guy.

Elliott yesterday earned his second Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award, an honor bestowed on one student-athlete in each conference sport. The award takes into account academic credentials, athletic accolades and performances and volunteer service to the community.

It seems that he has a sense of humor @jake_elliott22, too, which surely can be a good thing for kickers.

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