With training camp opening Thursday, we’re breaking down each position group’s competition. Today, in the final edition of this series, we look at the specialists.
In the Hunt
- LS Morgan Cox, 10th season
- P Sam Koch, 14th season
- K Justin Tucker, eighth season
- K/P Kaare Vedvik, second season
- LS Matthew Orzech, rookie
- RB/KR/PR Tyler Ervin, fourth season
- RB/KR Justice Hill, rookie
- WR/PR Joe Horn Jr., rookie
- CB/PR Cyrus Jones, fourth season
- WR/KR Chris Moore, fourth season
- WR/PR Willie Snead IV, fifth season
- CB/PR Tavon Young, fourth season
Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.1 percent) coming off a season in which he made 35 of 39 field-goal attempts. The 29-year-old Tucker signed a four-year contract extension during the offseason, and his range and accuracy is a valuable weapon in a league where so many games are decided in the final five minutes.
At 36 year old, Koch is still one of the NFL’s best punters. He has the versality to pin opponents deep in their own territory, hit booming kicks when necessary, and control the trajectory of kicks. He’s also a sure-handed holder on field-goal attempts for Tucker, and Koch’s strong throwing arm is an asset when the Ravens run gadget place on special teams.
Cox is one of the game’s most reliable long snappers, a two-time Pro Bowler who tees it up consistently every week for Tucker and Koch. Nicknamed the “Wolfpack”, the trio of Tucker, Koch and Cox is as good as it gets among specialists.
Moore was the primary kick returner last season, but he’s expected to take more offensive snaps this year. Hill could assume the role of kick returner, or perhaps Ervin if he makes the 53-man roster.
Jones ended last season as the primary punt returner, and did quite well with the job (14.4 yards per return and one touchdown), but he missed OTAs and minicamp with an undisclosed medical issue and the starter has not been decided.
The battle for punt return duties should be interesting. Returning punts may be Jones’ best way to make the 53-man roster, with the Ravens so deep at cornerback. Ervin has experience returning punts, but he’s not a lock to make the roster either. The Ravens probably don’t want their most reliable receiver (Snead) or their top nickel back (Young) returning punts. Jones took a punt to the house last season, and that’s the kind of explosiveness the Ravens will want to see some from someone during the preseason.
Under the Radar
The goal for Vedvik is to kick well enough to earn a job someone else. Tucker isn’t going anywhere, but several NFL teams are searching for a reliable placekicker and might be interested in trading for Vedvik. Wil Lutz didn’t make the Ravens’ roster in 2016 but became the New Orleans Saints’ placekicker after Baltimore released him and has thrived. A strong-legged kicker from Norway, Vedvik could be the next young kicker developed by the Ravens to find a home elsewhere.