Unquestionably, the Baltimore Ravens special teams unit came through in a big way for the 2012 squad and in situations that matter to boot. In our third and final part of our three part Ravens 2013 season preview we will take a look at Baltimore's special teams unit.
When you think of the Ravens special teams unit, almost every Baltimore fan immediately thinks of Jacoby Jones. The All-Pro kick returner was fantastic in 2012, but this season he is going to see an increased role at the wide receiver position so it has yet to be seen how much we will see him on returns with him being a starting receiver now. Do not get us wrong, he will still return kicks and punts, but it is doubtful that he will be back there every return opportunity.
So the question is now, who gets the return opportunities when it's not Jones back deep? Two weeks ago, we would have assumed it would have been Tandon Doss, Bobby Rainey or Laquan Williams, but none of those three players are on the team anymore as they were cut, so who now? Once healthy, we will probably see Deonte Thompson back there returning kicks, but until his foot problem heals, we may see a rotation of guys such as Matt Elam, Aaron Mellette, and Marlon Brown possibly get some opportunities when Jones is not the returner.
Baltimore also cut ties with Anthony Allen, and that is key because he was the lead blocker for most returns last season and really helped opening holes for Jones. The Ravens are likely to put rookie Kyle Juszczyk in that position this season, so it will be interesting to see how Juszczyk does in opening those holes for whomever is returning kicks.
Justin Tucker had quite a rookie season for the Ravens last year after beating out Billy Cundiff in training camp. Tucker was nearly perfect as he drilled 30 of his 33 field goal attempts during the regular season and a perfect 4-4 in the postseason, including the game winner against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional playoff game. We look for Tucker to have another solid year, and the important thing to watch for with him will be how he responds if and when he misses a game winner at some point or a field goal to tie the game late.
Baltimore has almost always had a very solid special teams unit and this season should be not different. The one cause for concern would be their coverage units as we saw in the playoffs last season that they can be exposed. Look for both the kick and punt coverage units to be much improved and a very strong point.
Lastly, the Ravens still have the very solid and quality punter Sam Koch. The beauty of Koch is that you know you are going to get a solid punt 98% of the time, and hey, he can even run it in from a few yards out as we saw last season on a fake field goal for a touchdown.
The season is finally here Ravens fans and tonight we will get to see the purple and black line up for real and begin their Super Bowl title defense.
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