Position Roll Caw: Special Teams (aka “The Wolfpack”)

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Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Position Roll Caw is a weekly series that takes an in-depth look at each Position Rooms in the 2018 Baltimore Ravens leading up to Training Camp.  We look at the players, the history, and the expectations for each group.

 

THE PLAYERS:

 

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

JUSTIN TUCKER, K, 7th year Veteran, University of Texas – Tucker needs no introduction among Ravens fans, but to just shortly list some of his accomplishments, he has made 202 out of 224 career field goals, 205 Extra Points (he is perfect in that category), has kicked 15 Field Goals of 50 yards or longer in the last two seasons, and is a 2-time Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro.  Tucker also currently holds the NFL career record for accuracy with a 90.179% FG accuracy rate.

 

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Image Credit: BaltimoreRavens.com

SAM KOCH, P, 13th year Veteran, Nebraska – Sam Koch holds the 2nd longest tenure on the Baltimore Ravens roster (behind only Terrell Suggs).  Koch has punted in 192 career games, has 946 punts, with a career average of 45.2 yards per punt, and 357 punts inside the 20 yard line.  He ranks 10th on the all-time list for punts inside the 20, and 16th all-time for yards per punt.  Koch has just one Pro Bowl, which he was selected to in 2015.

 

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Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

MORGAN COX, LS, 9th year Veteran, University of Tennessee – Morgan Cox is the longest tenured Long Snapper in Ravens history, as the team had a history prior to 2010 of replacing long snappers with a college free agent once their current snapper’s rookie contract expired.  Cox’s reliability and comfort with Tucker and Koch have led him to 2 Pro Bowls (2015 and 2016).

 

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Image Credit: CSURams.com

TRENT SIEG, LS, Rookie, Colorado State University – Sieg played all 52 games of his college career.  His career was not very notable (most long snappers are not) but he performed well in a specialists combine in February, led by former Ravens Special Team coach Gary Zauner, which earned him an opportunity to showcase in camp with the Ravens.

 

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Image Credit: Marshall Athletics

KAARE VEDVIK, P, Rookie, Marshall University – Vedvik is listed as a punter, but in his senior year with the Thundering Herd, he handled all kicking and punting duties.  Vedvik had a 44 yard per punt average, which led to him being named First Team All-Conference in Conference-USA.  He made national attention with an insane 92 yard punt against Old Dominion on October 14, 2017, which was the longest punt by an FBS player in 45 years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdGKADKbDnQ

 

ROSTER CHANCES:

LOCK – Tucker, Koch, Cox

BUBBLE

CAMP BODY – Vedvik, Sieg

 

 

2017 Review, IN JUST ONE PARAGRAPH:

The Ravens Special Teams group is so tight and so money, they have their own nickname: The Wolfpack.  The team has embraced this group mentality and treat any one player’s success as credit to the entire group.  None of the Wolfpack made the Pro Bowl in 2017, but arguments could’ve been made for any one of them as a snub.  They were responsible for 141 of the Ravens 395 points on the season.

 

 

2018 SEASON EXPECTATIONS:

John Harbaugh’s past history as a Special Teams coach, along with Jerry Rosburg’s long tenure with the team, have led the Ravens to hold an increased point of emphasis on Special Teams more than other NFL teams.  As such, the team places a higher value on their Special Teams talent and finds less reason to make personnel changes.  As such, Tucker, Koch, and Cox are set to enter their 7th season as a unit (interrupted only by a season ending injury to Cox in 2014 for 9 games).  Tucker is etching his name more each season into Ravens lore with his near automatic accuracy (He missed a total of 4 kicks over the last two seasons) and his ability to kick long field goals (His career percentage of 70% on 50+ yard attempts is among the highest in NFL history).  He shows no signs of slowing down, and is expected to continue to be one of the premier kickers in the NFL.

 

Sam Koch is on the backside of his career, but continues to be a valuable asset to the Ravens defense.  While his yards per punt average has dropped each of the last 3 seasons, he led the NFL with 40 punts inside the 20 in 2017, while recording only 3 touchbacks.  His punts that were returned only averaged 8.1 yards on each return, which is about middle of the road for NFL punters.  While Koch has provided some exciting trick plays in his last few seasons (He completed 2/2 passes for 38 yards last year), the hope is that the Ravens offense can improve and allow him to focus solely on punting and holding for Justin Tucker.  I would expect his yards per punt to continue to decline slightly, as he is now going to be a 36 year old player, but his value in punts inside the 20 and in the Field Goal unit will continue to make him a strong asset.

 

A Long Snapper’s stats are hard to predict, but it would be expected that Morgan Cox will continue to snap the ball, in a long distance manner.  Ok, ok, bad joke time is done.  Cox’s long tenure with the Ravens is no mistake.  He is a very reliable snapper, which, like Koch’s value as a field goal holder, is a major asset to Justin Tucker’s field goal game.  The Ravens and John Harbaugh have seen the downside of an underperforming snapper when Matt Katula had a hand injury he tried to play through in 2009.  While the kickers certainly had a hand in the results, the Ravens finished with just a 70% FG accuracy.  In Cox’s time with the team, the Ravens have never been below 75% accuracy on field goals.  He should continue to be consistently strong snapper for the Wolfpack.

 

The wildcard, when it comes to Morgan Cox and Trent Sieg, or even Sam Koch and Kaare Vedvik, is when the coaching staff and front office feel it is time to return to the youth movement again.  Koch is the 5th most expensive punter in the NFL, earning an average of $3.25 million per season.  Cox is also the 5th most expensive long snapper in the NFL, earning an average of $1.12 million per season.  While Cox’s salary is not a very drastic number, his position is also usually a cheaper one, and one that is usually more easily replaced.  I don’t believe the team will replace either player this season, but in the next year or two, it will be interesting to see if the Ravens give a long snapper or punter a longer look in preseason to decide on when to make the move to a younger/cheaper option.  Sieg and Vedvik are just camp bodies who will take advantage of working with a top tier Special Teams group and hope to parlay a strong camp or preseason into an opportunity with another team.

 

 

NEXT WEEK on Position Roll Caw: DEFENSIVE BACKS

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