After more than a month of inactivity, football is approaching fast.
The Ravens’ first full-team training camp practice will be held Thursday. Their first preseason game is Aug. 8 against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Final cuts for the 53-man active roster are due by 4 p.m. Aug. 31.
Training camp will help shape the roster before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. As practice nears, The Baltimore Sun will take a position-by-position look at the Ravens’ roster, including breakdowns of all 90 players. Today, the team’s specialist situation is analyzed.
One big question
Does Justin Tucker’s new four-year, $23.05 million contract extension affect anything? After he signed his first contract extension, in July 2016, Tucker had maybe the best season of his career, going 38-for-39 on field-goal attempts and earning his second (and most recent) Pro Bowl appearance. Don’t bet against a similar return on investment this season.
One smaller question
Will Sam Koch’s age start to show? CBS Sports’ recent ranking of the NFL’s top 10 punters included only two who are 33 or older. Koch turns 37 in August.
Justin Tucker: The most accurate kicker in NFL history is now, once again, the most highly paid. While kickers have never been more accurate than in this era, Tucker’s production continues to dwarf that of the league’s biggest names.
In seven NFL seasons, Tucker is 237-for-263 overall on field-goal attempts, a 90.1% success rate. When Morten Andersen, the most recent of the four kickers inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made his 237th field goal, he’d already missed 43 more kicks than Tucker. When Robbie Gould, the second-most accurate kicker ever, hit No. 237, he’d already missed 12 more than Tucker. Perhaps just as impressive, Tucker is the only active kicker who ranks in the top 25 all time in extra-point accuracy (99.587%, fifth best).
Sam Koch: The longest-tenured member of the Ravens’ special teams core finished with his highest-ever punting average last season (47.4 yards, fourth in the NFL), but the strength of the unit’s performance did not match.
Koch’s net average was just the seventh best of his 12-year career (39.8 yards, 16th in the NFL), and opponents returned his punts an average of 10.2 yards, the eighth-worst mark in the league, though none scored. Analytics website Football Outsiders also rated the Ravens’ punt unit No. 25 overall in efficiency, and they scored as low as they have since 2011.
Morgan Cox: Tucker and Koch get all the glory for their foot skills, but don’t forget the long snapper who’s entering his 10th season in Baltimore. In all, Cox snapped on 65 punts, 36 extra-point attempts and 39 field-goal attempts last season.
Kaare Vedvik: The Norway native could be the most monitored backup across NFL training camps this summer. As an undrafted rookie out of Marshall, Vedvik made eight of nine field-goal attempts during the Ravens’ preseason last year, including a 56-yarder.
But before Vedvik could be dealt for a possible late-round draft pick, he was assaulted in Fells Point, according to police. A team spokesman said Vedvik suffered a contusion on the back of his head as well as significant facial injuries, including to his teeth and mouth. Vedvik, now fully recovered, struggled during mandatory minicamp, but coach John Harbaugh was optimistic he would return to form.
Matthew Orzech: How appropriate that one of the longest of roster long shots is a long snapper. The undrafted rookie could become the fourth Azusa Pacific player to make the NFL; former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye is the Division II school’s most notable product.