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Kickers Give Ravens Leg Up

When the Baltimore Ravens signed both placekicker Billy Cundiff and punter Sam Koch to long term contracts, they secured a major portion of the team's success from last season. Other than perhaps the Oakland Raiders combination of kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler, the Ravens duo gives them that proverbial "leg up" on the competition in terms of field position, a critical part of every game.

Cundiff earned his first Pro Bowl selection this season, after finishing the 2010 regular season 26 of 29 in field goals (89.7%). He was actually better known around the league due to his ability to render teams ineffective in the kickoff return game, getting an NFL-record 40 touchbacks out of 79 total kickoffs. Only 38 of those 79 kickoffs were returned, meaning that more than half of the time, the Ravens opponents starting field position was the 20 yard line. Amazingly, Cundiff had a total of eleven touchbacks the rest of his six year NFL career prior to the 2010 season. Those 40 touchbacks were eleven more than the next best (Janikowski) in the NFL and his average distance on his kickoffs was an impressive 71.1 yards, almost six yards deeper than next best (Janikowski).

Koch punted the ball 81 times for the Ravens during the 2010 regular season. He averaged 43.6 yards per punt, but even more importantly, dropped 39 kicks inside of the opponent's 20 yard line, pinning them back deep inside their own territory time and time again. He also only put the ball into the end zone for touchbacks four times, which is also a very important stat to ponder over. Although Koch's punting average was only middle-of-the-pack compared to the rest of the league, his net average was fourth best in the NFL. Those 39 touchbacks were second in the league only to the New York Jets' Steve Weatherford, and the four touchbacks were tied for third with a few other players.

With head coach John Harbaugh coming from a Special Teams background, having two of the league's best on the same team should give him a ton of confidence whenever they trot onto the field and while many people do not look to Special Teams as important as either offense or defense, it certainly has the ability to turn the tide of the game in our favor, which the team is now counting on from those two for years to come.