The NFL owners are meeting this week to discuss both proposed new rule changes as well as reviewing the results of some recent ones. One of them that will be continuing is the change in the spot of kickoffs that were moved from the 30 to 35-yard line. Many people complained about the overwhelming number of touchbacks as a result yet the purpose of the rule was to limit the number of injuries that came on kickoff returns, which stats seem to indicate were noticeably lower.
Baltimore Ravens placekicker Billy Cundiff led the NFL and tied the all-time record in 2010 with 40 touchbacks, eleven more than the next best kicker. One would have thought that moving up five yards would have so drastically increased his touchback numbers that the Ravens might not have even needed to put the other ten players out on the field for his booming kicks.
Unfortunately, that was not nearly the case.
While some will defend Cundiff for missing a couple of games and playing injured in others, his drop-off on touchbacks was disproportionately noticeable. While Billy actually had more touchbacks in 2011 than 2010, his 44 touchbacks was only four more than last year and was only good enough for being tied for sixth in the league.
Along with his disappointing accuracy all season long (75%) as well as his devastating miss in the AFC Championship Game, there is every reason to exhibit concern on him being given the job without real competition in Training Camp. Others will point to his Pro Bowl 2010 season and hope that he will return to that level. However, looking at his career statistics, his 2011 season was much more in line with his career stats than the excellent 2010 season was.
Every Ravens fans would gladly love to see Cundiff prove his critics wrong in 2012, and while his poor 2011 season is now behind him, it's tough to shake off the self-doubt of that miss in New England, much less convince his coaches that he can be the kicker that the team expected him to be when they gave him a five-year, $15 million contract before last season.