the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, August 26, 2011

AFC North Specialists 2011

For the final AFC installment of our specialist overviews, we  head north.

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are set at kicker, where Billy Cundiff emerged as a Pro Bowler last year and was secured to a long term contract. He recently commented on his long range work for August, “In the preseason, I'm hoping to get a lot of long attempts. I need to continue to get reps in long field goal situations, especially with the way the new kickoff rule is.” The Ravens have no question at punter and holder, roles both handled by Sam Koch. Long snapper Morgan Cox, who suffered a torn ACL last December, was removed from the PUP list and is easing back into practice, “We didn’t want to go gung-ho on the first day. I feel like I could’ve, but it’s one of those things where you want to take it one step at a time. It’s a process.” Undrafted rookie Patrick Scales out of Utah State has been handling the snapping in the interim.

Cincinnati Bengals
Kevin Huber heads into his third season as the Bengals punter and holder. Clark Harris was brought in part way through 2009 and remains the long snapper. At kicker, although Mike Nugent is coming off a season ending torn ACL it doesn’t appear to be an issue. Through the first week of camp he had not missed a single field goal. ST coordinator Darrin Simmons noted, “I like his mental state more than anything. It’s important for him to have success early on but right now his confidence has to be as high as its been.” Undrafted rookie kicker Thomas Weber from Arizona State is the camp leg.

Cleveland Browns
Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand is back, with no questions or concerns. But the other two specialist positions have already been in the spotlight during camp. When the lockout ended, amidst questions and concerns that Phil Dawson might not sign his franchise tag tender, the team signed Jeff Wolfert – the second most accurate kicker in NCAA history and most recently having kicked in the UFL. Dawson has however since signed his contract and rejoined the team. At punter/holder, Reggie Hodges won’t be able to duplicate his breakthrough 2010 season after tearing his Achilles in practice early on in camp. Richmond McGee, most recently with the Bears, was subsequently signed after beating out Rob Long and Scott Crough in a tryout.

Pittsburgh Steelers
After parting ways with kicker Jeff Reed last season, Shaun Suisham was signed to finish the year and then re-signed following the lockout. He recently missed the second preseason game following an appendectomy. Although Suisham is certainly the favorite to keep the job, Swayze Waters has been in various NFL camps in recent years and could conceivably challenge. The biggest question is at punter. Can Dan Sepulveda bounce back from his second serious knee injury? Or, will his replacement from last year, Jeremy Kapinos, retain the job? Sepulveda can look for inspiration via long snapper Greg Warren, who bounced back last year after two years of ACL injuries.

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