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Thursday, November 27, 2008
Take your pick: Loyalty or production?


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

FeelyNugent

The decision here comes down to loyalty and what you've done for me lately.

No, this isn't really a kicker debate. This is a scenario in which you need to weigh sentiment against production.

By all indications, Jets kicker Mike Nugent should be back on the field by now. The 47th overall selection in the 2005 draft injured his right thigh in the season opener and hasn't played since.

Jets head coach Eric Mangini has made Nugent a game-time decision the past two weeks. Mangini on Wednesday said Nugent is "practicing as well. ... He's been kicking for a few weeks now." Nugent's still counting against the 53-man roster.

Jay Feely, meanwhile, has proved himself a valuable teammate on a first-place club. The street free agent has been the Jets' kicker for 10 games, endearing himself with critical field goals.

Feely calmly made a 34-yard kick to beat the New England Patriots in sudden death two weeks ago. He made a 52-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation time to force overtime in Week 7 against the Oakland Raiders.

He tied a club record with a 55-yard kick in the Week 10 blowout of the St. Louis Rams.

He's fourth in the NFL in points per game with a 9.1 average. He has made 20 of his 24 attempts (83.3 percent). Not a bad turnaround for a guy the Miami Dolphins cut in training camp and the Kansas City Chiefs let go after a strange one-day kicking contest among three hopefuls.

The Jets, however, might not find it so easy to send Nugent to the curb.

On the day the Jets signed Feely, Mangini said Feely would be the kicker only until "Mike gets back."

That was team loyalty talking then. Nugent was entering his fourth season as the Jets' kicker. They used a second-round pick to draft him out of Ohio State in 2005. He was the highest-drafted kicker since Sebastian Janikowski in 2000 and the second-highest since John Lee in 1986.

Nugent scored 110 points last year for a team that went 4-12. His 29 field goals were tied for fifth in the NFL.

But if Nugent was healthy enough to be a game-time decision on Nov. 13, then one must wonder if Mangini has changed his mind.