The Bucs added an extra dimension to their special teams with the addition of Falcons free agent punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen. The team hopes to eliminate its punting woes of the past two years and also help out the defense by limiting field position on kickoffs.
When the Buccaneers coaches and management reviewed last season’s special teams play, one stat stood out more than anything. That was exactly one touchback by Tampa Bay kicker Connor Barth on kickoffs during the 2010 season.
With the signing of former Atlanta Falcons punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen, the team feels like two positions have been upgraded dramatically. And based on Koenen’s statistics [40.7-yard average, with 29 punts inside the 20, 23 touchbacks on kickoffs in 2010] the last few years, the Bucs are virtually guaranteed better production.
Tampa Bay is happy to have an upgrade on special teams, and according to Koenen, the feeling is mutual.
“The first time I spoke to the special teams coordinator and the head coach they said, 'I’m excited to have you here,'” said Koenen. “That really meant a lot to me. When you come to a place where you feel welcome it means a whole lot more than just the money, so I’m real excited.”
The Buccaneers feel they upgraded two positions by signing Koenen as the team struggled to find consistency also at the punting position last year. The team drafted Virginia Tech punter Brent Bowden in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, but he was released in the preseason. The Bucs ended the season with undrafted free agent Robert Malone, but knew they were looking to upgrade that position in the offseason. Koenen, who was given the franchise tag the past two seasons by the Falcons, became an unrestricted free agent and was signed early by the Buccaneers.
“Free agency period was definitely crazy. My agent called me and told me they were very interested and it was a good possibility,” said Koenen. “It sounded great, so we jumped on it and made it happen.
“We had been talking to Atlanta, also. There were a couple of other teams, but it was a good fit for us.”
Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik spoke to members of the media Friday and commented on the addition of Koenen.
“I’ve always told you guys I’m a big believer in special teams in terms how players make this team early on and where they go,” Dominik said. “Specifically, punter and kicker are a big part of that. I think they control a lot of field position that a lot of fans that sometimes we take for granted. I thought it brought a lot of value to our football team to limit kickoff returns and also keep your team healthy in a way. Not only is he a really good punter, but he is a phenomenal kickoff guy and I think he is a big weapon in the National Football League. I look forward to him coming in here and showing that off.”
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