The Baltimore Ravens kicking game could face new challenges in the 2014 season.
Taken for granted far too often, the punter plays a huge role in winning the battle for field position which in turn can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Enter current Ravens punter Sam Koch.
The Ravens selected Koch in the sixth-round of the 2006 NFL draft and the former Nebraska Cornhusker has been solid for the purple and black since day one.
Koch, who currently owns the Ravens’ active consecutive games played streak, seeing action in 128-straight contests has never missed a game in his career.
The 2010 Pro-Bowl alternate owns a 44.8 career gross average and 38.6 career net average, both all-time marks in the annals of Ravens history. In 2012, Koch posted a career-high and Ravens franchise-record 47.1-yard gross average and a 40.8-yard net average, shattering his previous personal bests.
2013 was an up and down type season for the veteran Koch who posted career highs in punts (90) and punting yards (4,138), while averaging 46.0 yards per punt (38.9 net). While Koch did improve as the season wore on, his 27 punts inside the 20-yard line were his 4th lowest since 2006. Since entering the NFL in 2006 however Koch’s 225 punts inside the 20 rank third in the league.
Koch will be hard-pressed to stay with Ravens in 2014. While the team isn’t in dire salary cap distress Koch could find himself a salary cap casualty. With a base salary of $2.2M (and a $2.8M Cap number) one has to wonder if that just too much for a punter.
Certainly the Ravens could find a cheaper punter whether through free agency or perhaps an undrafted rookie. Yet they may want to retain Koch, particularly when you consider head coach John Harbaugh’s affinity for special teams and veterans. Making matters worse could be the affinity the specialists have for each other.
Punters, kickers and long snappers are all creatures of habit. The repetitions are many, oftentimes forming strong bonds as is the case with Koch, Justin Tucker and Morgan Cox. The trio proudly refers to themselves as the “Wolfpack.”
Could breaking up the Wolfpack prove detrimental to Tucker’s psyche? After all Koch has been the only holder Tucker has known since joining the Ravens.
That’s not to say Tucker couldn’t handle the change. He’s an unflappable professional.
Still, one has to wonder.
The Ravens have long enjoyed success in the punting/kicking game but if there’s one fewer member running with the pack, it could prove costly.
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