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Bengals angle for postseason experience with new punter

Posted Dec 31, 2013

The Bengals opted for punter Zoltan Mesko's playoff experience with the Patriots.


Darrin Simmons

That didn't take long.

Barely had Shawn Powell's 10-yard punt been fielded by the fans in the stands last Sunday against Baltimore then the Bengals cut him and signed seasoned postseason punter Zoltan Mesko on Tuesday.

With heavy preparation beginning Wednesday for the Chargers in Sunday's Wild Card game at Paul Brown Stadium (1:05 p.m.), the Bengals opted for Mesko's playoff experience with the Patriots in the last three straight postseasons that includes the last two AFC title games and the Super Bowl loss to the Giants following the 2011 season.

The Bengals also signed an emergency tight end in first-year Kevin Brock. A 6-5, 249-pounder, Brock played in a similar offense in Kansas City this season for four games.

The 6-5, 230-pound Zoltan had six punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks in two playoff games last year and in his six postseason games he has nine inside-the-20 and two touchbacks to go with a 40.1 net average.

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins did down a Powell punt on the Ravens 1-yard line last Sunday, but like defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said Monday, it is the playoffs and that means one mistake sends everyone packing.

Although Zoltan, 27, didn't work out with the group that converged on PBS Dec. 17 in the wake of Kevin Huber's season-ending broken jaw, he has the requirements special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons seeks. He has a cold-weather background and he punted in the NFL this season. A fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2010 out of Michigan, the Steelers picked him up for the start of this season after the Patriots released him on cutdown day.

The Steelers cut Mesko after the first seven games, when he averaged 42.5 yards on 34 punts, with a 36.7 net, three inside-20s and two touchbacks. He punted seven times in the Steelers 20-10 loss at PBS on Sept. 16 with no touchbacks and no inside the 20s, but his net was nearly 43 yards with the Bengals generating just 17 yards of returns.

His career line: 44.2 yards average on 175 punts, with a 39.2 net, 71 inside-20s and 14 touchbacks.

And, Mesko is used to the weather. In last year's AFC championship game in New England, it was 41 degrees, but the wind gusted to 28 miles per hour. In 2011 at Foxboro, it was 29 degrees. If the Bengals beat the Chargers this Sunday, they go to Foxboro.

Small world. That's where Mesko made his NFL debut against the Bengals in the 2010 opener.

While there seems to be optimism that tight ends Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and Tyler Eifert (neck) can bounce back off last week's inactive sheet and play, Brock, a college free agent out of Rutgers, can help in a pinch with Orson Charles already ahead of him. Brock had three catches for 36 yards with the Chiefs this year and two catches for 27 yards with the Bills in 2011.

The Bengals also signed a kicker/punter they knew Tuesday when they inked Quinn Sharp to a Reserve/Future contract. Sharp can't join the team for any work or count on the active roster until the Monday after the Super Bowl. The Bengals signed the 6-1, 189-pound Sharp after last year's draft as a free agent out of Oklahoma State. He was two-for-two on field goals and three-for-three on PATs when the Bengals waived him before the preseason finale.

 

 

 

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