BALTIMORE — After a very impressive start to the competition between veteran Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker this summer, the kickers didn’t disappoint Saturday as the Ravens practiced at M&T Bank Stadium.
After going a perfect 17-for-17 at home last season, Cundiff was 7-for-8 during the practice session with his only missing coming from 65 yards, which is two yards longer than the NFL record. The incumbent kicker made a 57-yarder in a “game-winning” situation and also connected on kicks from 54 and 48 yards.
Meanwhile, Tucker performed well in his first experience at the Ravens’ home stadium as he was a perfect 7-for-7. His long kick came from 62 yards, and the Texas product also added two successful tries from 48 yards and another from 54.
“We got a lot of reps for the kickers in game-like situations, which is really unusual and hard to do,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They both came through. Both of those guys kicked about as well as you could kick.”
With the Ravens not playing a preseason home game until Aug. 17 against the Detroit Lions, Tucker relished the opportunity to kick in front of the home fans — comparing it to the great turnouts the Longhorns would get for their annual spring game — and to get acclimated to the nuances of M&T Bank Stadium.
The rookie certainly gained a few fans with his initial performance at his home stadium.
“If you’re like me or Billy, the crowd doesn’t do too much [to affect] you,” Tucker said. “It’s just being able to get into the stadium and pick landmarks on the scoreboard or whatever just so you have something to aim at.”
While Tucker is still adjusting to life in the NFL and attempting to win the Ravens’ kicking job, Cundiff is trying to hold onto his and has focused on improving his technique in order to do so.
“I think the emphasis right now is on just getting better,” Cundiff said. “I’m using practice for what it’s supposed to be and that’s to get better on technique. It’s a little bit different for most guys [on the team]. We don’t have plays.”
The Baltimore starting offense ran a successful two-minute drill against the second defense early in practice, marching down the field 80 yards to finish with a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.
However, the starting defense offered more resistance to Flacco and Co. as safety Ed Reed picked off a pass that bounced off the hands of wide receiver LaQuan Williams. Earlier in the workout Reed nearly picked off Flacco again as he and Ray Lewis both deflected a pass the quarterback threw near the goal line during 9-on-9 passing drills.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb also grabbed an interception thrown by fourth-string quarterback Chester Stewart in what easily qualified as the biggest mismatch of the day.
After a rough start in organized team activities, rookie wide receiver Tommy Streeter is showing more confidence in running routes and catching the football. The 6-foot-5 target made a nice catch on a sideline route and later ran an impressive drag over the middle as he caught another pass from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Tight end Davon Drew had a disappointing day, dropping several passes while working with the starting offense. After Dennis Pitta broke his hand earlier this week, Drew has received extensive reps as the team’s current No. 2 tight end and had performed well until struggling on Saturday.
With a number of players injured or limited along the defensive line, the Ravens gave a number of reps to rookies Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Terrence Moore with the starting defense.
The Ravens also gave extensive time to Albert McClellan at the rush linebacker spot while Paul Kruger worked as the strongside linebacker for most of practice. Kruger has worked extensively at each outside backer position as the Ravens try to sort out what their best alignment will be without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs to begin the season.
Having already lost Pitta for the remainder of the preseason, fans had to be nervous to see tight end Ed Dickson being looked at by the training staff halfway through Saturday’s practice.
Dickson was poked in the eye and didn’t return, but he told media in the locker room he was fine and expected to be back on Monday. His right eye was red, but he said his vision was already getting better.
“He just couldn’t get [his vision] back where he could really get going, but he’s going to be fine,” Harbaugh said.
Reserve linebacker Darryl Blackstock left practice early with what Harbaugh believed to be a groin injury.
Thirteen players were missing at the start of the Saturday evening workout at M&T Bank Stadium.
Offensive linemen Matt Birk (back) and Jah Reid (calf), defensive lineman Arthur Jones (hip), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (back) and Cary Williams, linebackers Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), and Josh Bynes, tight end Dennis Pitta (hand), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), and wide receivers Tandon Doss (hamstring), Patrick Williams, and David Reed (knee) are sitting out Saturday’s practice.
Williams was absent from practice for the second straight day, but he said it was not related to his surgically-repaired hip.
“It has nothing to do with my right hip that I had surgery on,” Williams said. “It’s perfectly fine. I’m just taking a couple of days off.”
The MRI results on Jones’ hip flexor injury came back favorably as the third-year defensive lineman is only dealing with a strain. The projected starter was unsure whether he’d play in the preseason opener in Atlanta after missing the last three days of practice.
Doss said his hamstring injury is feeling much better and plans to practice on Monday afternoon.
Upshaw said he is dealing with a sprained shoulder after Harbaugh labeled it a bruise on Monday. He is working closer to a return to the practice field.
Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day. Both players were still subject to the acclimation period under the collective bargaining agreement and are expected to be full-go for Monday’s practice.
Fullback Vonta Leach returned to practice Saturday after sitting out with a tight back a day earlier. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Asa Jackson also returned to action after missing Friday’s workout.
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