Bengals may finally put the ‘fear of God’ in opposing punters

Bengals may finally put the 'fear of God' in opposing punters

Not since the days of Adam “Pacman” Jones have the Cincinnati Bengals had a punt returner that struck fear in opposing teams. Kickoffs may be a dying art, but every team still punts the same.



Turning 10 yard returns into 30 yards would make the Bengals even more dangerous. It’s what special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons craved for last year.



Bengals may finally put the 'fear of God' in opposing punters



“We need a dominant punt returner that will put the fear of God in the other team if they try to play keep away from him,” Simmons said following the 2022 NFL Draft. One draft pick the Bengals turned in a year later was made with this in mind, and he’ll go punt for punt with the incumbent at the position in a battle that may last the entire preseason.

Bengals Punt Returner Competitors

Trent Taylor

If you like consistency, then Taylor is the returner for you. He averaged 9.8 yards per return when he took over for Darius Phillips at the end of the 2021 season.



And followed that up with a 10 yards per punt return average in 2022. He very rarely gives up yardage, just like he rarely goes for a big gain. His longest of 51 returns in a Bengals uniform went for 27 yards.



Bengals may finally put the 'fear of God' in opposing punters



He’s also muffed just one punt since taking the job. Taylor has also been the backup slot receiver behind Tyler Boyd, but he rarely sees the field regardless of injuries at receiver. He’s logged 115 passing down snaps at receiver.

Matching expectations has earned Taylor the trust of Simmons, but unless he can prove to exceed them and create more explosive returns, his time could be running out.

Charlie Jones

Everything that Taylor is, Jones is expected to be more. He fielded 126 punts during his college career, returning 76 of them and muffing just one in the process.

Explosive returns? Jones had one in each of his three seasons playing the role for both Iowa and Purdue. His longest came in 2020 when he took a line-drive punt against Michigan State to the house from 54 yards out.

Bengals may finally put the 'fear of God' in opposing punters

It won’t be as easy in the AFC North, and not just because of the competition. At Jones’ pro day, Simmons had him fielding punts outside on an erratic weather day in West Lafayette. “It was cold, it was windy, and the sun was like right in my face. I had everything,” Jones said, but he passed the test.

Jones’ final two years featured some inconsistencies as a returner, averaging exactly seven yards per punt return from 2021-2022. He’ll need to do better to out Taylor for the job this preseason.

Much like the battle at punter, the punt returner gig in Cincinnati will come down to a rookie or veteran, where the veteran will have to show significantly more than rookie to stay on the team.

Bengals may finally put the 'fear of God' in opposing punters

Jones has the benefit of being a fourth-round pick who’s also in the mix for playing time as a receiver. His projected role looks a lot like what Taylor’s has been for the past two years, only with a greater chance of expanding. He should be considered the favorite, putting Taylor’s back against the wall.