Justin Tucker’s leg strength and accuracy are proving
sufficient to gain notice in Baltimore. Add in the fact that his success could evict
the only remaining scapegoat from last year’s AFC Championship game meltdown from
the roster, and the young kicker has quickly become a fan favorite.
The former Texas Longhorn is the talk of Baltimore and
rightfully so. Though he attempted two fewer field goals than his
competition, Billy Cundiff, Tucker nonetheless connected successfully on 13
more field goals during training camp. According to
stats kept by Ed Lee of the Baltimore Sun,
Tucker connected on 82 of 87 kicks (94.2%) through last Wednesday, whereas Cundiff only made
74 of 89 (83.1%)
As if Cundiff’s botched 32-yarder last January didn’t
already create an awkward work environment coming into this season, he has to
face a rookie who has a legitimate shot at putting the former Pro Bowl kicker
out of a job.
One can only imagine what it would be like to spend the
majority of your day with someone who is trying to replace you.
“It’s not awkward at all, it’s just known,” Tucker said. “I
came in knowing that I was going to be in a head-to-head competition; [Cundiff]
knew I was coming in for just the sole purpose of competition and there is no
animosity or nothing like that.”
Tucker is absorbing every bit of his opportunity to play in
the NFL both on the field and in the locker room with his teammates.
“First thing that comes to mind is how much fun this is. Not
many people are blessed with the opportunity that we all have and it’s just a
matter of being able to recognize it,” he said. “If I’m not taking advantage of
this opportunity to the fullest, than I’m letting somebody down and I
definitely don’t want to do that.”
During his downtime, Tucker and a few of his teammates have
been getting to explore Baltimore and even though he’s just arrived, he’s been
getting plenty of support from the Ravens fan base.
“People have just been nice up here, which is cool. I’m not
expecting anything but it’s nice when people say ‘what’s up?”
The 53-man roster cut down will be made on August 31st
and if Tucker continues to kick the way he has, it’s hard to imagine the team
releasing him. Tucker is more accurate, consistent and not to mention $2.2
million less expensive than Cundiff.
“The real winner is going to be the Ravens in the end –
they’re going to get the best guy possible, whomever that may be,” said Tucker.
The boos that echoed off the seats at M&T Bank Stadium
last night when Cundiff took the field clearly show who the fans want as their
kicker for this season. Whether in Baltimore or elsewhere, Tucker has shown
enough to earn himself a chance to kick in the NFL in 2012.
Throughout camp, most of the rookie’s misses have been from beyond
50 yards, whereas Cundiff has struggled inside of 45. At one point last week, the
incumbent even missed from 24 yards out.
One thing is for sure – if this really was an open
competition, then based on what they’ve shown this summer, Tucker is the better
man for the job.
When the final roster is released on August 31, my money is
on Tucker being listed at the placekicker position.