What To Watch For – Ravens Vs. Panthers: Preseason Edition Week 3
Two more weeks until the real action begins!
Preseason is halfway over and the Ravens are a meaningless 2-0 going into Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers. One part of the game some ignore can tend to be the biggest deciding factor in a game, Special Teams.
Special Teams change from year to year and almost never have the same people. Head coach John Harbaugh, a former Special Teams coordinator himself, takes a lot of pride having a good Special Teams and I do too. I’m going to show you what you should watch during Special Teams during the preseason.
After Billy Cundiff only converted 28 of his 37 attempts in 2011, it became necessary to add competition at the place kicker position. Justin Tucker, from the University of Texas, was added as an undrafted free agent before last year’s training camp. Tucker would subsequently beat out Billy Cundiff during last year’s training camp/preseason. Tucker is now looking to capitalize on his impressive rookie campaign. Tucker went 30 for 33 on field goals including 4 from 50+ yards and 4 for 4 on field goals in the postseason.
Although not known for his accuracy in college ( 40 for 48 lifetime) Tucker possesses an ability to kick in high pressure situations. In college, Tucker hit the game winning field goal for Texas in the heated Texas Vs. Texas A&M rivalry game. Tucker then went on to hit three game winners for the Ravens, including one in the playoffs against the Broncos.
Looking forward at the 2013 season, the Ravens offense will require a reliable kicker; last year a quarter of their points were scored via the field goal, with 3 games being won by a game winning field goal.
Koch, 31, has consistently been one of the most underrated punters in the league, if punters can even be overlooked. The past two years were one of his worst, accuracy wise, in recent memory. Koch recorded 21 and 24 punts inside the 20 yard line in 2011 and 2012, a huge step back from 2010, one of his best years, where he was second in the league with 39.
Koch seems to have consistency issues year to year, having his punting average and net yardage be in the top 10 in the league, then dropping to around the bottom half of the top 15 the next year. That fact only makes this a bigger year for Koch. A rebound year for Koch would pay dividends for the Ravens defense, which is looking like it will rebound from last year.
Special Teams Captain The Ravens cut their special teams captain Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who was set to make close 1 million dollars this year and whose talent was declining. Corner Corey Graham was signed last off-season to help on special teams, he went to the Pro Bowl as the NFL special teamer in 2011, but has found new life on defense. Veteran leadership on special teams is huge, seeing as special teams is normally made up of rookies and guys at the bottom of the depth chart with not much experience. That leaves guys like James Ihedigbo, LaQuan Williams, and Anthony Allen to fill that void.
I believe Ihedigbo will step up as the captain since he has the most experience and ability to play special teams.
Follow Cody on Twitter @The_OtherCody.