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John Eisenberg: Get Used To Justin Tucker's Name


PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.


"No player had a more devastating ending to 2011 than Cundiff," Sports Illustrated's Don Banks recently wrote.

The Ravens did nothing about it for months other than voice support for Cundiff, who was the NFL's best kicker in 2010 and signed a $15 million contract after that season. But there was never a doubt that the Ravens would bring in someone to challenge him in training camp and possibly take his job.

It's the least they can do. Even before Cundiff's big miss, he blew a few kicks down the stretch in 2011, dealt with a leg injury and exhibited a troubling lack of range all season, converting just one of six attempts from 50 yards out.

The Ravens owe it to themselves to find out if anything else is out there.

There was speculation about a challenge from Shayne Graham, who narrowly lost a training camp duel with Cundiff in 2010, but Graham signed with Houston.

Now it appears the Ravens have settled on the challenger – Justin Tucker, an undrafted rookie from the University of Texas with a big leg and some impressive college stats.

He tried out over the weekend at the team's rookie minicamp, and that sound you heard was applause from the other campers when he converted a 55-yard attempt Saturday.

Asked about what he saw from Tucker, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said, "He gets really good lift on the ball, very accurate. He had a very good camp."

My guess is you should get used to Tucker's name, because you're going to be hearing it a lot in the coming months. Kicking jobs attract attention, and while Tucker isn't a sure bet to take Cundiff's job – far from it – the Ravens are going to give him every chance to show what he can do.

The situation makes them uneasy, no doubt. The fact that Tucker went undrafted isn't a big deal – a lot of NFL kickers begin that way – but going with a young guy can be hazardous, as the Ravens learned with Steve Hauschka in 2009. Hauschka has found a job in Seattle now, but his growing pains were costly here, and the Ravens have too much at stake in 2012 to go through that again. They have to be as sure as they can about Tucker before they elect to go with him.

In the end, though, the job remains Cundiff's to lose. He will have every chance to demonstrate that he has put his big miss in some dark room in his memory and thrown away the key. The Ravens have invested in him and want him to be their kicker.

But if a young guy keeps booting 55-yarders, well, things could get interesting. Because what the Ravens really want is to never experience another special-teams moment like they did in New England.

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