The Arizona Cardinals filled one of three openings on its 16-man practice squad Friday with the signing of veteran kicker Mike Nugent, who was brought in for a tryout Sept. 15.
This is not Nugent’s first time as a member of the Cardinals, having a perfect (1-of-1) field-goal percentage with the franchise after playing in two games during the 2009 season. For his 15-year career, Nugent has kicked in 168 regular-season games with the New York Jets (2005-08), Cardinals (2009), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009), Cincinnati Bengals (2010-16), Chicago Bears (2017), Dallas Cowboys (2017), Oakland Raiders (2018) and New England Patriots (2019).
Arizona has kicker Zane Gonzalez on the 53-man roster and Nugent is the only other player at the position besides him on either that group or the practice squad. The Cardinals have tried out several specialists in recent weeks as teams likely want to get a feel for available personnel in case a specialist tests positive for COVID-19 and is unavailable at the last minute. Kingsbury confirmed as much following practice Friday.
“That’s been in the works for the last month or so,” Kingsbury said of Nugent’s signing. “I think more than half the teams have done that. Having a specialist on call that’s ready to go in case Zane caught the COVID, we’d have a guy readily available and could actually kick extra points and field goals. Nugent has done a great job in this league and we’re lucky to be able to add him for that insurance policy.”
The Cardinals had punter Richie Leone on their practice squad for a week before he was released earlier this week.
It also cannot be ruled out that the Cardinals are bringing the 38-year-old Nugent in to compete for immediate reps with Gonzalez, who converted 1-of-3 field goals in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. His two misses were from 49 and 52 yards, respectively, while the one he made was a career-long 56 yards.
However, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury reiterated the franchise’s confidence in Gonzalez Wednesday.
“He’s been great in camp,” Kingsbury said. “Those were tough field goals. It’s all 50-plus I think and he hit the 56-yarder, which really gives us momentum going into halftime, gave us a chance to win that game. And so we feel very comfortable with Zane and where he’s at. Obviously, you’d like to make those, but those are long kicks and we’ve got to do a good job offensively of not making him kick three 50-yard field goals.”
Last season, Gonzalez only missed four total field-goal attempts and was a Pro Bowl alternate, however much of his opportunity came from failed offensive red-zone drives. That was not the case Sunday as he had to settle for long distance.
Gonzalez was not alone in Week 1, as 15 different NFL kickers missed at least one attempt. In fact, per Josh Dubow of the Associated Press, the 19 missed field goals in Week 1 were the most in the NFL since there were 20 missed in the opening week in 1982. The 71.6 percent cumulative accuracy was the worst since 1998, when kickers league-wide made just 71.4 percent.
Notably, 17 of the misses (34-for-51) were in outdoor games, while kickers were 14-for-16 inside. San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould believes outdoor games with no fans has an effect on the wind and can make it more difficult for kickers.
With Nugent’s addition, the Cardinals have two practice-squad openings they can choose to fill.