Sunday afternoon, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked if he planned to bring in another punter to press incumbent Sam Koch, who has been Baltimore’s primary punter since the Ravens drafted him back in 2006.
Harbaugh defended Koch, saying it would be “pretty tough to find competition” for Koch and also kicker Justin Tucker. After all, the Ravens had one of the NFL’s best special teams units after a subpar 2011 season.
"There aren’t too many guys that want to come here and kick or punt,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think they see it as being a very fruitful opportunity. But we will find somebody to help us, somebody that wants a chance to kick or punt in the National Football League. I’d like a guy who could do both, if possible -- punt and kick. You’d love to have a lefty, so you can see how hard that is to come across. But, we will get the best guy we can.”
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Still, there is a sector of the fan base that would like to see the Ravens bring in a challenger to Koch, who struggled in the playoffs.
Koch posted a net punting average of 40.8 yards during the regular season, which was eight-best in the NFL and the second-highest mark of his career. But in the playoffs, he had a net punting average of 34.3. Opponents averaged 22.3 yards per return after averaging just 7.8 during the regular season. The coverage team was partly responsible for that, but he seemed to struggle with his trajectory.
His touchback percentage doubled in the postseason, increasing from 8.4 percent to 18.2. He had just seven during the regular season but four in the playoffs, including two in the Super Bowl.
Koch was not kicking at his usual standard during the playoff run, but he was once again solid during the regular season. He ranked 11th in punting average (47.1 yards), 13th in punts inside the 20-yard line (28) and seventh in average yards per punt return (7.8).
When it came to pining punts inside the 20, Koch actually fared better than he did in 2011, though his 28 punts inside the 20 at a 33.7 percent clip were nothing compared to his career-best 2010 season when he put 39 punts inside the 20, a rate of 48.1 percent, with just four touchbacks. That was his best chance of cracking a Pro Bowl roster, but he lost out to Oakland’s Shane Lechler again.
After the Ravens made the Super Bowl, Koch, who was given a five-year contract in February 2011, said he was having a good season statistically, but he felt like he had plenty of improve upon.
"I feel like there's just so much that I've left out on the field," Koch told my colleague, Edward Lee. "I have a lot more to prove. It's something that I'm going to continue to work at and become better, become more consistent, be able to produce in certain situations and just be able to perfect the craft that I'm trying to perfect.”
Competition is often a good thing for teams, as we saw first-hand a year ago when Tucker got an invite to training camp as a kicker and punter out of Texas and went on to unseat kicker Billy Cundiff.
But besides a few poor kicks in the playoffs, there was nothing alarming about how Koch performed in 2012. He admits there is room for improvement, but Koch was rock steady as always.
No wonder the Ravens are still looking for another camp kicker.