Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Punter Bryan Anger the Bucs' secret weapon

TAMPA — Bryan Anger understands that fans still don't quote hang times like they do 40-yard times, and that the mere appearance of the home team's punter on the field will generally be seen as a negative in the stands.

But across the league, he sees punters showing more personality, extending beyond their normal anonymous fourth-down existence.

"You see all the hype around (Oakland's) Marquette King, and (Indianapolis' Pat) MacAfee's got a TV show. (Los Angeles') Johnny Hekker's really vocal with things, so guys are standing out a little bit more," Anger said. "The whole aspect of punting is being picked up, with what (NFL Network broadcaster) Rich Eisen did: Punters Are People Too."

And for all that newfound love for the position, Anger, on pace to set several Bucs punting records, would prefer to keep a low profile just the same.

"I think it's a good thing to go unseen," he said Wednesday, literally from a corner of the locker room, next to snapper Andrew DePaola and kicker Roberto Aguayo. "If you kind of slide under the radar, usually … I don't want to stand out. I try to be seen but not heard."

For four years in Jacksonville, Anger was a conversation piece for one cruel reason: He was drafted in the 2012 third round out of Cal, 70th overall, making him the highest drafted punter in the past 20 years. And unfortunately, five picks later, the Seahawks took a guy named Russell Wilson, who has won one Super Bowl and barely lost another.

So Sunday, without much fanfare, the "Punter the Jaguars Drafted Instead of Russell Wilson" had four punts for the Bucs, all downed inside the 20-yard line and three inside the 10, to do his part to secure a critical win over Seattle and Wilson.

"Outstanding," coach Dirk Koetter said this week. "A lot of guys don't want to punt in that kind of a system because we're always asking him to kick it to a certain spot on the field, not just go back there and show off how strong of a leg he has — and he has a very strong leg — but he's doing a great job of placing it."

Anger, 28, was signed to a modest one-year contract in the spring but now has a chance to rewrite nearly all the Bucs' single-season punting records: for average, net average, punts downed inside the 20 and opponents' average return.

"Our fans, they're loud when we make good plays, so I know they're into it," special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said. "He's a great professional. He really approaches his craft with a lot of excitement and zeal, even though he may not outwardly show it. He's obviously talented and has been great to work with."

Anger, who is 6 feet 3, has synched extremely well with gunners Russell Shepard and Josh Robinson, whose job is to speed downfield and either limit an opponent's return or down the ball deep in opposing territory. Robinson is tied for second in the league with nine special teams tackles, and Koetter has lobbied for him to make the Pro Bowl.

"Coverage has been phenomenal, and that makes my job 10 times easier when Josh and Shep are running down there and making plays," Anger said.

Anger's success, however quietly he would like it to come, has set him up to be re-signed to a long-term extension, fitting well with the club's special teams needs as a punter and as a reliable holder for Aguayo.

"As long as I keep playing well, things will be good for me," Anger said. "Team-wise, Nate's doing an awesome job, love playing for him. Dirk's great, the special teams unit is the best one I've been a part of. Obviously, you want to play for someone like. And warm weather's always good for kicking. Everything there is in line."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

 
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