View all Articles Thursday, August 4, 2016 2:30pm
TAMPA — If anyone should appreciate the immense, nearly unfair pressure placed on Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo, who was drafted in the second round in April, it would be new Bucs punter Bryan Anger.
Just as kickers are rarely drafted as high as Aguayo, punters rarely go in the third round and 70th overall, as Anger was out of Cal to the Jaguars in 2012. He was the Jaguars’ punter for four years, and his career average of 46.8 yards is the second-highest in NFL history.
But Anger, more than anything, is remembered as the punter the Jaguars drafted five picks before the Seahawks took quarterback Russell Wilson. Never mind that the 71st pick that year started one game in his first three years, or that the 73rd was out of the NFL after one year and four total tackles. They weren’t Russell Wilson, yes, but they also weren’t punters.
“There’s a false sense of pressure,” Anger said after practice Wednesday. “I’m sure Roberto is the same: We came locked in, loaded, ready to go. As long as you ignore all that hype and drama, just do your thing, it’s not that big of a deal.”
The Jaguars went into free agency in March with an NFL-high $74 million in room under the salary cap, but opted to spend big to sign Carolina punter Brad Nortman, giving him a four-year, $8.8 million contract. Anger landed with the Bucs, with a one-year, $1.75 million deal that includes a $750,000 roster bonus.
“Obviously, it’s a business, and it doesn’t always work out,” Anger said of the Jaguars, who will have joint practices with the Bucs in two weeks in Jacksonville before their preseason game Aug. 20.
The Bucs are excited by what they’ve seen in Anger — especially in how his arrival has sparked a competition with last year’s starter, Jake Schum, who isn’t giving up his job without a fight.
“Bryan’s got a reputation as having one of the strongest legs in the league,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “He was maybe asked to punt in a different style than we’re going ask him to punt, but right now we’ve got a big-time competition between him and Jake at punter.
“Those guys are like two golfers matching each other, shot for shot out there. Those are some beautiful punts. I think (special teams coordinator) Nate (Kaczor) told me we had some hang times of like 5.5 seconds, which is incredible. Those two guys are in a battle for one job.”
While Anger, 27, had a stronger punting average than Schum last year (46.3 yards to 41.9) the two were closer in net punting, with Anger at 41.5 and Schum at 39.5. Whichever punter loses out here could easily wind up punting elsewhere in the NFL this season.
Anger, the only punter to be drafted in the top 80 picks in the past 20 years, is adjusting to a new group of specialists in Aguayo, who he holds for, and long-snapper Andrew DePaola, and building chemistry with both.
“DePo’s awesome, Roberto is obviously great, Coach Kacz has been great,” he said. “I couldn’t really have hoped for a better group of guys here.”
Anger’s first priority is winning the punting job, knowing he’ll need to be reliable in preseason to make sure he has the job when the regular season starts in September.
“Consistency is huge,” he said. “You punt consistently in the league and you’ll last a long time. Everybody’s got a good leg, so it’s all about figuring it out. You work on direction, work on inside-the-20 kicks. There’s always something to improve on.”
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.