BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 23: Place kicker Justin Tucker #6 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a field goal against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on August 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The preseason in the NFL is a story of the survival of the fittest for the players on the fringes of rosters. Former Texas Longhorns kicker Justin Tucker has emerged as the winner in just such a battle with former Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff, who was released by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, leaving Tucker in command of the starting job.
The Longhorn legend acquitted himself well in the preseason game against Jacksonville recently, hitting on field goals of 33 and 53 yards, helping to prompt a temper tantrum from Cundiff that couldn't have played well with the Ravens brass, with the veteran kicker saying he would "take his services elsewhere." And so he is. Just more than a week ago, Cundiff had called the battle "a battle with myself."
Not good to lose a battle against yourself -- that may be the definition of fail right there.
As he was against Texas A&M last fall, Tucker was nails for the Ravens this fall, too:
In practice, Tucker, an undrafted rookie out of Texas, was just under 95 percent on his field goals in front of the media and hit every kick attempted during preseason games.
Nails, I say.
Still, the move wasn't necessarily widely hailed:
The Ravens play a lot of close games and are a Super Bowl caliber team. They have basically entrusted a rookie kicker. Wow.— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) August 26, 2012
Freeman also called it a "huge gamble" for head coach John Harbaugh, while ESPN blogger Jamison Hensley called it the "gutsiest move this season" before later saying that he would have done the same himself.
The Harbaughs aren't afraid to make moves like this, even though a similar move backfired for the Ravens in 2009. Now it's up to Tucker to make Harbaugh look smart.
Texas Longhorns vs. Texas A&M Aggies - Justin Tucker Game Winning Field Goal (via gggg54)