Ravens' Tucker stays consistent

Ravens' Tucker stays consistent
November 6, 2012, 4:00 pm
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Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) kicks the game winning field goal against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium.

(Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE)

There is so much money and time now spent on the draft. NFL teams scout out every possible player in every possible way at every possible level.

But sometimes they miss one.

Justin Tucker is one they missed. A solid kicker at Texas, he went unpicked in the 2012 NFL Draft, and the Ravens quickly invited him to work with them and eventually signed him to do battle with incumbent kicker Billy Cundiff. Tucker beat him out for the full-time job, and the Ravens have reaped the benefits of that decision.

Tucker kicked a 43-yard field goal late Sunday that sealed the 25-15 victory over the Browns in Cleveland. He's been so consistent all season long, making John Harbaugh and his coaches probably relax quite a bit after deciding to cut a proven veteran kicker for an untested rookie.

Tucker's given the Ravens something they haven't really had much before -- a long-range kicker. Matt Stover was outstanding as a kicker during his long stint here, but had more trouble from farther away. But Tucker's numbers so far this season are really something.

He's made 15 of 16 kicks overall, which is impressive enough. However, the rookie's also hit five of six kicks from between 40 and 49 yards. Even more impressive is that he's made all four of his 50-plus yard kicks.

Someone who's that good in longer kicks can give an offense an extra dimension. The Ravens know that if they can get to the opposing 35-yard line that they've got a good chance to at least kick a field goal. That's a big difference from asking the offense to move it even farther and could take some pressure off.

What will be interesting to see is how Tucker handles things the second half of the season and when he gets called on late in big games, possibly against the Steelers. That will be another part of the learning curve for someone who looks to be a very effective young kicker.

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