When the Ravens selected Billy Cundiff as their kicker prior to the start of the regular season, it's safe to say some might have doubted the move.
After all, Cundiff was a career journeyman, one who had been a part of nine different organizations and hadn't kicked more than six games with a team since his 2004 season with the Cowboys.
The kicker that the Ravens let go, Shayne Graham, is a Pro Bowler, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, and had made at least 82 percent of his kicks in seven consecutive seasons.
Yet, so far, the Ravens' decision to go with Cundiff over Graham has proven to be a wise one.
Cundiff has made 10 of his 12 field goal attempts on the year, with a long of 49 yards. He hit the game-winning field goal last week against the Bills, the sixth game-winner of his career. And then, there's the kickoffs.
He has been absolutely crushing the ball on kickoffs, pinning opposing kick returners deep in their end zone and often giving them no chance at a return. His 18 touchbacks is already a Ravens single-season record, and ranks him second in the NFL in that category behind only the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski.
Meanwhile, Graham has only kicked one game this season (he made four extra points and did not attempt a field goal for the Giants in fill-in duty two weeks ago) and is currently unemployed.
Add it all up, and Cundiff's performance this season is making head coach John Harbaugh look like a wise man.
"I feel comfortable with our kicking situation this year," Harbaugh said. "I like Billy; I think he's a heck of a kicker, and obviously that's been proven. He's made some big kicks for us, so he's done a great job. I think everybody can see that."
Cundiff, who spent the last seven regular season games with the Ravens last year, knew going into this offseason that he had some work to do if he wanted to hold the job for the 2010 season.
As a result, he says he worked harder than he ever had in the spring and summer months, training and kicking near his home to try and polish his craft.
"I took two weeks off when the season was done, and then I went right back to work," Cundiff said. "Most guys are going to take anywhere up to three months off, and then they're going to finally break out the shoes and get back after it. For me, this is like, no, I'm going to kick more than I ever have in the offseason. I'm going to make sure that I'm not only lifting and running like I always did, but I was going to kick.
"When I set my goals up, I never said, 'My goal is to make the 53-man roster.' If I set other goals up, then making the team is going to take care of itself. As I looked to the season, I kept wondering what I could do to make an impact instead of where the focus was ever since I left the Cowboys was always to make a roster. So the preparation was completely different."
Cundiff said he had a meeting with Harbaugh at the end of the 2009 season in which the Ravens' head coach challenged him to make improvements to his game. Harbaugh specifically asked for better kickoffs, and so Cundiff went to work.
Before Cundiff signed his restricted free agent tender this offseason, the Ravens also told him they would be signing Graham to compete with Cundiff in training camp.
"It was one of those things that I had all these challenges presented before me," Cundiff says. "And, for me personally, I really like Baltimore. I like the city, I like the team. So, why wouldn't I have all this added incentive to really bust my butt, work the plan that I set out, and then see what happens? Because I'm not going to say this is my last chance, but this is a really big chance. It was a chance for me to establish myself as the guy, so why wouldn't I take advantage of the opportunity?"
He's certainly done that so far this season.