By: Ashley Anderson
It’s time for 3 Baltimore Ravens questions about special teams. As a former special teams coordinator, Head Coach John Harbaugh has always put a huge emphasis on having a well-rounded special teams unit. Although some players prefer to be divas or stars, Ravens players seem to embrace the grind of the “other third” of football. With the best kicker and arguably top punter in the NFL, it may seem like this is a group without any lingering questions. However, there are a few areas of intrigue.
3.) Will Justin Tucker continue to lead the NFL in all-time accuracy?
What Justin Tucker has done in his nine seasons is nothing short of remarkable. Year after year while other kickers struggle, the Ravens have been able to rest easy knowing they have the NFL’s all-time leader in field goal accuracy. With a current success rate of 90.65%, the bar is high for Tucker.
It is tough to imagine a time when Tucker somehow went undrafted out of the University of Texas. The opera singing, Royal Farms commercial star came to Baltimore in 2012, and he quickly became a fan favorite. Winning the fan base over was easy considering Billy Cundiff broke hearts all around Baltimore few months prior. No one will ever forget Cundiff’s shanked 32-yard field goal try that squashed the Ravens’ last opportunity in the 2011-2012 season AFC Championship game. Just saying “Cundiff” is enough to trigger PTSD in Baltimore.
Tucker helped erase most of those memories, however. He has been the model of consistency, and his work ethic is unmatched. Year after year as kickers join the Ravens for training camp, he provides an example of what it takes to make it in the NFL. As such, Baltimore has churned out numerous prolific kickers since his arrival, although none have challenged his roster spot.
During training camp this year, Tucker said he feels like he is just hitting his prime. Kickers can theoretically play much longer than most other guys, and at age 31, he still has plenty of gas in the tank. The Baltimore Ravens are surely confident Tucker will continue to be the gold standard among kickers, and he will accept nothing less from himself.
2.) Who will step up to provide leadership for the Baltimore Ravens?
The Ravens took a gamble when they chose to part ways with long-time special teams ace Anthony Levine. Better known as Co Cap around Baltimore, Levine provided a great deal of leadership on the special teams unit. Although the Ravens added him back to their practice squad, there may be weeks where he does not receive a call-up due to more pressing needs.
Also known for their special teams contributions, Justice Hill and LJ Fort are out for the season with a ruptured Achilles and torn ACL respectively. In addition, Baltimore waived veteran Jordan Richards from the practice squad to make room for Le’Veon Bell. At this point, this is a unit lacking a big-name veteran presence.
As previously mentioned, head coach John Harbaugh expects everyone to be prepared to play special teams. Veteran linebacker Josh Bynes was recently added to the practice squad, and fellow linebackers Chris Board and Kristian Welch will likely be heavily relied upon as well. In addition, the younger players Baltimore kept due to their high ceilings will earn more playing time by embracing and excelling on special teams. Though there is not one clear leader like Levine on the 53-man roster, Baltimore is counting on someone to emerge from the pack.
1.) How will the Wolfpack look with Nick Moore at long snapper?
Since 2012, the Ravens relied on the well-oiled machine known as the Wolfpack on field goal and extra-point attempts. Long snapper Morgan Cox got the ball to punter Sam Koch, and Koch promptly faced the laces out for Tucker to put the ball through the uprights. Save for nine games in 2014 when Cox was injured, that was simply the Raven way.
The trio became so close, no one could imagine one without the other. Even as Koch approaches age 40, it seemed like they would be a unit forever. However, in one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, Baltimore parted ways with Cox in favor of Nick Moore.
Moore, a former Georgia Bulldog, spent most of the 2020 season on the Ravens practice squad. When Cox was placed on the Covid-19 list, Moore was activated for one game on December 2nd versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was no noticeable drop-off in production, and he did not commit any major gaffes. As a result, the Ravens felt comfortable moving forward with a younger, cheaper option.
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Cox is more well-known than most long snappers in the NFL, and he deserves a round of applause for a stellar career in Baltimore. For Moore, the best thing he could do is fly under the radar. When people are not hearing your name as a long snapper, it usually means you are doing your job well. While they rarely get much credit, long snappers are crucial to the field goal and punting units, and the focus will be on Moore until he proves to be as reliable as Cox.
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