Reporting Mark Zinno
Everyone knows I hate kickers. I think they ruin the game to an extent. I also think the actual players don’t consider kickers football players. All of that aside, the kicking battle is the biggest thing in camp this year. I have been closer to it than most and have had the chance to interview both guys and get a sense for how things have gone thus far. Now granted, Billy Cundiff hasn’t attempted a kick in a game since the AFC Championship game & Justin Tucker hasn’t attempted a kick in an NFL game ever!
So I break it down to two things: physical and mental.
Physical - Cundiff was the guy that Ravens chose to replace Steve Hauschka. He rewarded them by making 12 field goals in just 7 games for the team in 2009. In 2010, he lead the league in touchbacks and went 26 of 29 in field goals. The Ravens thought they had their guy. 2011 was unforgiving missing all nine FGs on the road during the regular season. He has only converted above 80% of his FG attempts in a season once in his career (2010) and is just 5 for 17 lifetime over 50 yards. He has been solid at practices this year so far, but hasn’t been dominant from long distance. Tucker, in his last season at Texas went 17 of 21 on FG attempts (81%) in just 13 games. He only converted 17% of his kickoffs into touchbacks. He has been impressive in camp. He has boomed kick-offs and field goal attempts and has made more than Cundiff from over 50 yards. The ball explodes off his foot. EDGE – Tucker
Mental - This is totally subjective, but this is what I see. Cundiff is still clearly bothered by last season and the miss in the AFC Championship game. He’s frustrated with talking about it. Understandably. It’s in his head. But he wants to let his kicking do all the talking. He has a chip on his shoulder. That could help him or hurt him. If he gets hot early, he can ride that emotion. But if he struggles, that frustration could boil over and end his time with the Ravens. Tucker’s biggest challenge will be inexperience. The NFL can be cruel to all rookies. But in a position where there is very little tolerance for error, he will be expected to perform at a high level fast. I think he knows he has Cundiff beat in the physical aspect of kicking. He has dealt with pressure before. Playing for Texas is a big deal … more so than playing for Louisiana Tech, where Matt Stover played his college ball. They both have pros and cons. EDGE – push
I think Tucker surprises a lot of people and wins the job and is scoring the first points of the Ravens season against the Bengals.
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