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Positional Review Preview: Kicker / Punter

2008 Review:

Matt Stover continued his impressive career with another solid campaign as the team’s placekicker and lone link to the old Browns. His 13 th season with the club saw him slip a bit in some of his overall totals and his diminished leg strength showed a need for young Steve Hauschka to take over the kickoff duties and long range field goal attempts for about half the season.

Stover finished the year with his lowest total field goal completion percentage (81%) since 1998 and was shaky early on especially from past 40 yards (5 for 9) but as usual he seemed to re-establish his accuracy and from inside the 40 was virtually automatic (22 for 23). The highlight was Stover booting the 43 yd game winner over the Titans to send the Ravens to their second AFC Title game. His PAT record was once again spotless (41 for 41) and he hasn’t missed a Point After since 1996.

On November 16, 2008 Stover set an NFL record, kicking his 372nd consecutive point after touchdown.

Steve Hauschka showed a strong leg and in 8 games and hit one 53 yard attempt out of two attempts from past 50 yards.

Baltimore was about middle of the pack in the NFL with 9 touchbacks (Carolina led the league with 30). On Kickoffs the team averaged about 64 yds per attempt, once again ranking them 22nd out of 32. Starting field position for the opposition seemed to be a bit of problem at times.

Sam Koch continued his progression into one of the best punter’s in the league. He was second in the NFL with kicks inside the Twenty (34) and averages 45 yards a punt (8th in the league), while the punt return average (6.4) was 6th in the league which indicates good hang time for the coverage to get set.

In 2008, Koch led the NFL in punts inside the 10 yard line. Not a stat you normally see.

2009 Preview:

Matt Stover was not offered a contract. In fact there were rumors that he too was headed to the Jets before friend Jay Feely signed with them.

While there is some hope during Spring Training that he may be tendered a contract all signs are pointing that the his tenure in Baltimore is finished.

No player has scored more points for a single franchise than Stover has for the Ravens. He ranks 5th all time in the NFL in scoring with 1,944 points as of January 4, 2008. He is one of the all-time fan favorites and will surely be a part of the Ravens Ring of Honor at some point in his career.

That means the positional battle is one between Steve Hauschka and Florida State’s Graham Gano. Gano won the Lou Groza Award and garnered All-America honors during his senior season and was considered by many experts to be the best placekicker in the draft.

It’s way too early to make the call as to which young player will get the job but it should be fun to watch the open competition all through camp. The Ravens are hoping for a big improvement in the kick-off game and a stronger leg would hopefully increase field goal chance from deeper distances.

Either way whomever wins the job will have a high standard to match in Stover. It will be interesting to see how fans react after the first FG miss.

Koch was a restricted free-agent and signed his one-year, $1.545 million tender offer on March 27 so the punting game is set.

He should continue his excellent play and I think could garner All-Pro status in the future. Not bad for a former walk on at Nebraska.

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