Skip to main content

Quick Hits: Austin McNamara Joins Bengals Punting Competition After Some Coaching Research; Why Incumbent Brad Robbins Embraces A Challenger

P Austin McNamara during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
P Austin McNamara during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bengals special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Darrin Simmons has been doing this long enough and well enough that now his rookies are scouting him and it helped this time around when Austin McNamara discovered Simmons was a college punter, too.

McNamara, Texas Tech's long-range punting artist who had some options before he signed with the Bengals, was born 23 years ago during Simmons' fourth year coaching in the NFL.

When Simmons completed his 22nd draft with the Bengals last month, the most of any current kicking game coach with the same team, he didn't exactly make a cold call to the undrafted McNamara.

As the coach who runs the kicking drills at the NFL scouting combine, Simmons is already a familiar voice and face to the rookies. McNamara found out more than his name when he did some research that included Simmons' visit to Lubbock for his pro day. There was also a Zoom interview shortly before the draft.

The big lure to sign with Cincinnati was the shot to win the job in a training camp joust with incumbent Brad Robbins. But working with Simmons appealed to McNamara maybe as much.

"We had that personal connection over the last month and a half before the draft and that definitely weighed in my decision," McNamara says. "We talked during the back end of the draft. He's very unique in that he's got a punting background. That really intrigued me. My agent told me a little bit about him. I looked up some stuff about Coach Simmons and my agent told me he's been in the game a long time. A great coach. I trusted that and I've seen it first-hand here."

You can debate if McNamara is Simmons' most accomplished Bengals prospect. Kevin Huber, the club's all-time leading punter, led the nation in net punting his final two seasons at the University of Cincinnati. McNamara's 45.91-yard average is the 10th highest in NCAA history and highest in Big 12 history. His eight punts of least 50 yards in a 2021 game set an NCAA record.

Check out the best photos from the first day of rookie minicamp for the 2024 season.

But there's no question at 6-5, McNamara would be the tallest punter Simmons has worked with since his first spring here in 2003 and 6-6 Travis Dorsch.

Yes, it helps.

"I think so," Simmons says. "It's about foot speed. The faster you can get your foot from point A to point B. If the lever is longer, it gets there faster. More force."

Simmons saw McNamara make it to this level, so he's not going to tinker that much. Maybe refine his drop a little to make it a tad more consistent, a little more repeatable. But other than that …

"He very well could have been drafted. We were fortunate enough to be able to land him," Simmons says. "He just wants to come in compete. I think that's what everyone wants."

McNamara is finding out pretty much what he discovered about Simmons is holding true.

"We've done some drills that are really cool, really unique," McNamara says. "We did a holding drill and I've done something like it in the past, but he gets your hands quickly to the kick. He gave me a few tips here and there that helped with my technique."

Simmons doesn't usually find himself here. The last time he had back-to-back Opening Day punters where one was not named Huber were his first two seasons here with Nick Harris in 2003 and Kyle Larson in 2004.

ROBBINS' TAKE: This is why Robbins had such a great rep coming out of Michigan last year as a solid program guy who fits in with the culture:

Simmons knows Robbins not only expects the competition a year after the Bengals picked him in the sixth round, but he embraces it.

"That's a chance to learn from another punter. You can learn from each other," Robbins says. "Build each other up. Have a good relationship, but still compete. Any competition will be good."

Robbins, whose rookie year-long challenges began with a debut of 10 punts on a wet field in Cleveland, seeks the exact same thing McNamara does:


"All kickers and punters know each other. I DM'ed Austin one time when we were both in college," Robbins says of X. "It was about a story I read, but I can't remember what it was about. I don't know much about him, but I know he's a good dude."

Robbins says he's not going to research McNamara's strengths (length and leverage) or his alleged weaknesses (recognition of pressure, number of return yards), and is going to treat it like golf.

"If I were trying to win a tournament, I wouldn't necessarily research on what golfers are doing," Robbins says. "I'm going to focus on what I'll be doing to win the tournament."

He'd be a good guy to have in a tournament. He's good enough to break 90 from the Pebble Beach tips, which he did a few weeks back after his college buddy Jake Moody kicked in the Super Bowl. The night the 49ers drafted Moody in the third round, he and Robbins vowed to play Pebble, and the next day the Bengals drafted Robbins in the sixth round.

"We got a caddy. We did the whole thing. We walked," says Robbins, who says he won by a shot. "We planned it right then during the draft. We were going to Pebble Beach no matter what."

MIMS ADJUSTING: With Trent Brown not here at the recent voluntary workouts while dealing with a personal issue, first-round pick Amarius Mims is getting work with the first team at right tackle. Right guard Alex Cappa, one of the taller guards in the league at 6-6, 310 pounds, is looking up at the 6-8, 340-pound Mims while getting an up-close look next to him.

"He's got a good attitude. He's also a physical freak. That's always good," Cappa says. "Whatever I know, I'll pass it on to him. He'll develop over time. He's got a lot to learn, but once he gets everything good mentally, then physically it will come together for sure."

Mims says Cappa not only helps him on the field, but when offensive line coach Frank Pollack is discussing a topic in the meeting room, Cappa turns around to help him if he needs something clarified.

"Right now, it's things like getting the snap count down," Mims says. "It's a matter of questions of cadence and stuff like that. Coach Pollack does a good job putting into categories of what kind of play it is. I'm taking it day-by-day. We've got a very talented offensive line and I'm listening to whatever they say."

Orlando Brown's view from across the way at left tackle:

"He asks a lot of questions. Technique, fundamentals. How the league is so he's preparing on the field, off the field. He's self-aware. He's got the right mindset in thinking we'll have to count on him at some point this season."


2024 NFL Draft

The Bengals source of news, interviews, photos and more at the 2024 NFL Draft.

Related Content