The Ravens will hold their first full-team practice of training camp on Thursday. Each day leading up to the official start of camp, The Sun will examine several key position battles that will be decided during preseason.
The competitors: Billy Cundiff, Justin Tucker
Breaking it down: This will probably be the most analyzed competition in camp, all because of how the last possession of the 2011-12 season ended. Though Ravens’ fans don’t need a reminder, Cundiff’s 32-yard field goal attempt, which likely would have forced overtime against the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, sailed wide left, ending the team’s Super Bowl hopes.
Since that miss, there have been constant questions of Cundiff’s psyche and calls from the fans to let him loose and sign an experienced kicker. But the Ravens have stuck by the veteran who converted 28-of-37 kicks in the regular season including just 1-of-6 from beyond 50 yards.
Instead of signing an experienced kicker to compete with Cundiff, the Ravens added undrafted free agent Justin Tucker who both kicked and punted for the University of Texas last season. In the last two seasons at Texas, Tucker converted 40-of-48 field goals.
Tucker did exhibit impressive leg strength and accuracy during the organized team activities and doesn’t appear intimidated at all by the opportunity to go head-to-head with Cundiff.
The bottom line: Cundiff has said all the right things and claims that he won’t be defined or affected in the long run by missing the biggest kick of his career. But the reality is every miss in the preseason will prompt questions about whether he has mentally gotten over that day at Gillette Stadium. Still, the Ravens stood by him and didn’t go out and sign a veteran kicker like the Washington Redskins did in bringing in Neil Rackers to compete with Graham Gano or the New York Jets did in signing Kris Brown to challenge Nick Folk. No disrespect to Tucker, who has been impressive thus far, but an accomplished veteran kicker would have turned up the heat even more. Tucker would probably have to significantly out-kick Cundiff to make the team. The Ravens have a good amount of money tied up in Cundiff and they feel like he’s a nice weapon on kickoffs. It would be quite a leap for a team with Super Bowl aspirations to put their kicking game in the hands of an undrafted rookie.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun