FAB 3. Anger Management In Tampa Bay

It’s taken awhile, but the Buccaneers finally have a star-studded lineup that is beginning to resemble Tampa Bay’s roster from the glory days.

Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Doug Martin, Cameron Brate, Ali Marpet and first-round pick O.J. Howard on offense.

Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Brent Grimes, Robert Ayers, Jr. and hopefully Vernon Hargreaves III and Noah Spence on defense.

The Bucs aren’t quite to the level of Mike Alstott, Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and John Lynch, but they are getting close to being a bona fide playoff team.

Yet for all of the established stars and up-and-comers on Tampa Bay’s 2017 roster, the player that has had the best and most consistent training camp and preseason is without a doubt punter Bryan Anger. The Bucs signed Anger, who was Jacksonville’s third-round pick in 2012, to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million last offseason.

Bucs P Bryan Anger - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs P Bryan Anger – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

While the acquisition of Grimes and Ayers captured the headlines last year, Anger might have actually been general manager Jason Licht’s best free agent signing. He averaged 45.9 yards per punt with a 42.7-yard net, downing 37 of his 70 punts inside the 20 with just five touchbacks.

That’s over half of his punts being downed inside the 20.

Anger has picked up where he left off from last season, averaging 42.1 yards per punt with a 39.3-yard net. With the starters in the game for the first three preseason contests, a whopping 10 of Anger’s 13 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line this preseason, including all seven of his punts against Cleveland in Saturday night’s 13-9 loss to the Browns.

“I think that is the most I’ve had,” Anger said. “I think I’ve had six downed inside the 20 before. The offense did a great job of driving down and obviously didn’t finish, but that’s where we step in. We had some short-field opportunities from the 38-yard line, 40-yard line, 45-yard line.

“It’s cool to see stats after the game, but you don’t think about it during the game. The situation presents itself and you have to go out and do your duty. The big focus the last couple of years is limited touchbacks. It’s trickier from the 50-yard line and back. I had trouble hitting 58-yard punts into the end zone. A lot of emphasis is limiting those longer balls and getting them to stay inside the 10-yard line.”

Not only does Anger do a great job of nailing punts inside the 20-yard line last year, but he teamed with gunners Josh Robinson, Russell Shepard and Ryan Smith to drop several punts inside the 5-yard line.

“He gives us a great chance of getting a turnover having the offense backed up that far near the end zone,” Smith said. “It gives their quarterback a harder time and it creates great field position for us. There are only so many plays you can run out of your own end zone. It really shrinks the playbook. It gives our defense a chance to get a stop or a turnover. This is the NFL. You don’t see many 95- or 99-yard drives. A lot of the NFL defenses are great enough to stop a drive that starts that far back. Going 80 yards against an NFL defense is hard, especially our defense. Going 99 yards is almost impossible. It’s great to have Bryan put us in a great position.”

Anger’s 54-yard punt made the Bears start at their own 2-yard line after Robinson tackled returner Eddie Royal for a loss of three yards. Three plays later, Ayers sacked Jay Cutler in the end zone for a safety in Tampa Bay’s 36-10 victory over Chicago.

With the Bucs trailing 14-10 at San Diego in the third quarter, Anger’s 54-yard punt was fair caught at the Chargers’ 8-yard line. On the next play, Philip Rivers was picked off by David, who returned it 15 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in a 28-21 road win.

“He’s got every punt you can think of,” Bucs kicker Nick Folk said. “Bryan is doing great. He’s got the big punts you need to flip the field. He’s got the touch punts from the 38-yard line where you down them near the goal line and every punt in between.

Bucs CBs Josh Robinson and Ryan Smith – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

“If you can do that two times per game, teams are going to get frustrated coming out of their own end zone. You might get a safety out of it, or they might get a bad punt off and then your offense has a short field, or you might get a blocked punt. Our gunners are doing great. They take it seriously and they take pride in it. It’s fun to be a part of that.”

Anger also played a huge role in Tampa Bay’s 16-11 win over New Orleans on December 11. With the Bucs clinging to a five-point lead, Tampa Bay’s offense stalled and had to punt twice late in the fourth quarter. His 44-yard punt was caught by Smith, who borrowed a page out of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video, as he leaned forward into the end zone with his toes outside the goal line and tossed the ball behind him to fullback Alan Cross, who downed the ball at the Saints’ 1-yard line.

The Saints only picked up eight yards in three plays and had to punt the ball back to the Bucs. But after Tampa Bay gained just 15 yards on six plays, Anger was called on to punt again, and dropped a 32-yard punt down to the 3-yard line where Robinson downed it. New Orleans traveled just 42 yards on six plays before Keith Tandy’s interception with less than a minute left sealed Tampa Bay’s victory.

Not only did Tampa Bay’s gunners help Anger down 37 punts inside the 20 last year, they helped limit return yardage. Only 24 of Anger’s 70 punts were returned last season, and for just 128 yards – by far the fewest amount allowed in his career.

“Last year Ryan Smith came in when Russell had to step up and play more receiver,” Anger said. “[Special teams coordinator] Nate [Kaczor] is doing a great job of training those young guys. Justin Evans is fast. Watching him go downfield, he’s hungry to make a play. Josh Robinson is obviously great, and we have a ton of special teams weapons. They take pride in what they do.”

Evans, the team’s second-round draft pick, is being groomed to be a gunner this year with Smith being pressed into starting duty at cornerback during the preseason due to Grimes’ injury.

Bucs S Justin Evans - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs S Justin Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Bryan is a great punter,” Evans said. “He’s one of the best I’ve seen. He takes a lot of pride in it and our special teams coach also takes a lot of pride in that. As gunners, we take it very seriously. We play special teams here like we would play on offense or defense.

“I feel like anyone can do it when you have a punter who is punting so well. I have learned the role of gunner here. I played it a little bit in college, but whether I’m a starter or not on defense, I want to be a starting gunner because I feel like I can help my team.”

While he’s relished his time with the starting defense in Grimes’ absence, Smith told me he’s itching to get back to playing special teams.

“Seven punts inside the 20 from Bryan didn’t surprise me at all,” Smith said. “I keep telling him, ‘I can’t wait to get back out there. We’re going to do our thing like last year.’ When the ball is in the air I know I’m going to get to it or I know Josh is going to get to it. It’s great knowing what we’re going to get from our punter.

“We have some fast guys, man. People don’t even know how much talent we have on this team. Seeing Justin run down there [Saturday night], it wasn’t a big surprise. He’s an athlete. He’s going to show it whether it’s on special teams or defense.”

Licht wisely locked up Anger last December as a reward for a job well done. The 28-year old Anger was signed to a five-year, $17 million contract extension that included $4 million in guaranteed money in the form of his $1.5 million salary and a $2.5 million roster bonus this year. Anger’s salary climbs to $3 million per year in 2018 and ‘19, and then increases to $3.5 million in 2020 and ‘21.

Anger is playing at a Pro Bowl level and since he’s found his groove in Tampa Bay he’s gunning to make the Pro Bowl this year.

Bucs P Bryan Anger - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs P Bryan Anger – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

“For sure,” Anger said. “I’m trying to be No. 1 every year. I have the leg strength and the potential, and now we have the special teams. Nate is doing an awesome job getting guys that are hungry and they want to play on special teams. I didn’t always have that before (in Jacksonville) when you bring in guys on a rebuilding team. It’s tough. But here you have some awesome core special teams players here like Josh Robinson, Adarius Glanton, Ryan Smith and others. They are big-time special teamers. It’s awesome to have that support.”

While his seven punts inside the 20 against Cleveland may have wowed those watching Anger put on his punting clinic, it didn’t faze his head coach.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Koetter said. “Jason brought Bryan in here a year ago. Bryan was one of those players that just needed a change of scenery. He was a high draft pick and he has done nothing but perform for us.”

If he keeps it up, Anger will continue to help the defense by creating opportunities for safeties and defensive touchdowns, and aid the offense by creating shorter fields as opponents will have to continually punt from their own end zone when Anger’s punts are downed inside the 5-yard line.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

32 COMMENTS

  1. Bayless is a Cowboy hack that literally says things to mug for the camera and create controversy. One of the most important things I saw this preseason was that the team came out of it without any major injuries. I’m still stunned to see different sites having the Bucs finish fourth in the NFC South. I know it’s a damn tough division, but fourth? I think that as much that Jameis has improved, I also think that resigning Smitty was the best move of the offseason. I think that the D is going to surprise some people and this team should be sending PR into their “playoff scenarios” mode by December.

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    Rating: +12. From 14 votes.
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    • No free-agent pickup or draft pick was as important as retaining Mike Smith. We desperately needed continuity in the coaching staff and front office (which we’ve only had one other time since Gruden was let go) after finishing 2016 on an upward trajectory. Thank goodness for Dean Spanos being a idiot and going through with the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles… if they do the smart thing and stay in San Diego, I don’t think we would’ve kept Smith. The timing on the decision-making on both sides was not a coincidence, IMO.

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      Rating: +12. From 12 votes.
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  2. Skip Bayless is a pompous ass who knows nothing, absolutely nothing about the Buccaneers other than what he’s seen on Hard Knocks. No credibility whatsoever. I’d rather not spend a second thinking about him or his bogus opinions but here I am. Five minutes I’ll never get back.

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    Rating: +10. From 10 votes.
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  3. Brian Anger is a WEAPON! A punter as a weapon? In Anger’s case, absolutely. He gives the Buccaneers great control of field position time and again.

    Good stuff Scott. Incidentally, it might be a good idea to allow comments after each individual Fab of the Five? Each one deserves individual comment and I really believe you’d get more if you took my suggestion.

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    Rating: +9. From 9 votes.
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  4. We still need to bring in another QB and put Griffin on IR and let’s see where he is and several weeks. I still don’t see backup offensive tackle, the same for defensive ends. As of today I only see 8-9 wins if Winston stays healthy. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get those 10 to 11 wins, but that’s areach as of right now.

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  5. If Greeny ‘s on board with Winston and the Bucs then I’m not holding much hope for the season. Dude is the kiss of death if there ever was one.

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  6. Random thought, but isn’t time we revise the “downed inside the 20” stat considering teams now get the ball at the 25 after a touchback? And where did that term come from anyway? Why not “downed inside the 10” which is much more impressive and effective? Just a thought….

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    • Getting the ball at the 25 is only on kickoffs, punts and turnover touchbacks are still at the 20.

      And I think it’s the stat because most punters can kick it 60-75 yards into the endzone for a touchback, whenever they want to, the skill comes from hangtime, ball placement, and putting the correct spin on the ball to give your ST a chance to down it.

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      Rating: +2. From 2 votes.
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  7. One thing I have noticed about Jameis in the preseason is that he starts to the game faster, or better. The last two seasons, and even in college, he started off slow. That is one of the benefits of him being more accurate this year. Great stuff on Jameis!

    I am proud to say I have never watched a show Bayless has been on. I wonder if him, and Tom Jones, have any self respect as men, to even try to get it right.

    Anger is everything we hoped Aguayo would be. It looks like it’s a lot of fun to be a gunner when he is punting!

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  8. Seahawkers podcast has a whole segment at better at life than Skip Bayless, one of the funnier segments out there. There Prisco World segment is absolutely x10 better at life than Skip Bayless though.

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  9. Could’ve stopped the headline at, “Bayless is clueless”

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  10. SR………”If there is one thing about today’s world of sports reporting and news reporting in general that I detest is the supposed need for hot takes – the more controversial and attention grabbing the better.”

    SR……..Gruden will be returning to coaching!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. If Skip doesn’t like Dirk who cares, keep winning games and he will get on board. Feel the Bucs should’ve taken the gamble on Cameron Irving due to his ties with Jameis and talent coming out of college. Hopefully our line stays healthy but we can never have too many talented big guys used to playing in the FL heat.

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  12. The less said about Skip Bayless the better. May his name never pass our lips and keyboards again.

    I love our coaches,as well as our players. Don’t give a rat’s rear end for pre-season games as anything more than scrimmages designed mostly to figure out who makes the cut to 53. Other than that, they’re irrelevant to regular season expectations.

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  13. Scott, I’m not sure why you guys have been pushing the re-signing of Evans all off season as if they are running out of time. I am not surprised at all. When the bucs re-signed McCoy and David, they both had one year left on their contract and not two like Evans does. That is why the contract talks have not picked up steam. Neither side is in any rush. Why should they be? Evans option year is going to pay him $15 million. Last time I checked, that is still top 5-6 in the league at his position. Evans will get paid his worth in due time. No need to rush.

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    Rating: +6. From 6 votes.
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    • The rush isn’t to get him signed, The rush, although there obviously isn’t one, would be to sign him for less. Because obj is going to get signed too. So we either let obj set the market and end up paying more or we set the market with Evans and probably pay less. Well almost certainly. That’s the incentive.

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      • Look, you are talking about pennies at this point. Antonio brown makes about 17 mil a year. Hopkins just signed a contract that put him in that ball park. Evans and obj will be in that ball park. Its not like the bucs are going to save 30 mil by signing evans now. The market is already set. Again, evans option year next year pays 15 mil.

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        • I think we’re basically both agreeing that there is no rush. But all the intel I’ve heard leading up to now was that they preferred to set the market. I agree though nickels and dimes at this point.

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  14. If Skip Bayless predictions held any salt Tim tebow would have multiple Super Bowl rings, RG3 would be starting QB for the Dallas cowboys, and… I probably don’t have to say more. You can youtube compilation videos of everything he’s gotten wrong, it’s pretty great.

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  15. Koetter is the best thing that has happened to this team in a long time. So is Smith. When we make it to the playoffs, there will be a lot Crow to go around for skeptics. The Defensive line is a little sketchy, but if we are lucky and keep healthy, good things are going to happen.

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  16. Right now I’m picturing Skippy bleeding out on a cold castle floor. Lord Skip Balesh, not bad Scott.
    Basically Bayless is a dickhead. Always has been. Excuse my potty mouth Scott but sometimes you got let it fly.
    8 more days and we shall see if the BUCS are for real.
    I haven’t been this juiced at a start of the BUCS season for awhile.
    GO BUCS
    GO RAYS
    GO LIGHTNIG
    HELL, GO TAMPA

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  17. I’m often amused and frequently just baffled at what I overhear fans in the stands blurt out loud enough so those around them can, in their minds, be educated by their utter nonsense and ill-informed rhetoric. This past game (?), the idiot behind me, who obviously received the tickets as a gesture of sympathy from the true season pass holder, actually found fault with punter Bryan Anger when the cesspool (field) of players was filled with a collection of turds floating around until today’s scheduled cuts.

    That fan might well have taken his cue from Skip Brainless who always tries to portray himself as a bit of an intellect when in reality we all know he’s just another pompous Cowboy fan still living in the past.

    As the host of Iron Chef says, “Let the battle begin!” Thankfully, our favorite team came out of these meaningless games(?) relatively unscathed. The goal was to evaluate the players and improve the roster from a year ago. I believe that was accomplished. Other than the questionable back-up QB, I think the team has better talent at each position group than at the start of the 2016 season.

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  18. Regarding Bayless–The national medial largely ignores the Bucs, which means they do little homework and there is usually not much depth behind the statements they make. Bayless has followed Jameis a little closer, but is off base with his assessment of Koetter, imo. He is correct with his facts, but wrong with his conclusion.

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  19. JW has indeed looked more controlled and accurate so far. If he can maintain that in the regular season it would be huge. Cutting down his total turnovers to something below the 20+ he has averaged could alone be enough for two more wins. Fingers crossed…

    The most telling line in the FF came from one of our own starters on offense:

    “If he has time in the pocket he can deliver a good ball every time,” Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries said.

    If, indeed. He certainly has the weapons. Will he have the time…? It’s all guesswork at this stage. Again, fingers crossed

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  20. Bayless along with most ESPN talking heads is the result of the failed Disney?ESPN upper management brain trust, and their PC SJW warrior mentality is turning off viewers every where. It seems they have little understanding of why most America watches sports especially football. They need no lessons in “group think” from those idiots.

    Their NEW World order of programming leaves much to be desired.

    I seldom watch any of them anymore. Their schtick has grown tiresome. They have completely lost touch with most Fans.

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  21. Runole, thanks for amusing us with your inner Donald Trump. Political correctness used to be called being polite and civil until the uber right made such civil behavior a dirty word.
    ESPN is having a tough time not because of what you perceive to be their political leanings, but because they sunk huge amounts of money into the NBA and it isn’t paying off.
    Now for some football.
    Scubog. as usual, you nailed it.
    Skip Bayliss knows very little about anything except for his beloved Cowboys.
    I would love to see Bayliss step into an elevator with Troy Aikmen and see what he looks like when he comes out.
    If you remember Bayliss was the one who was spreading unfounded rumors around about Aikmen possibly being gay.
    Aikmen almost quit Fox when he found out they hired him.
    The guys is just a complete no talent jerk with a big mouth which is what keeps his name in print. See Howard Stern,

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    • Drd. At least Howard is somewhat funny. Satire and dumbass not equatable.
      GO BUCS

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    • Drdneast

      He probably got that idea from ron and jp who always spew that slant on reality. The fact that many stream their tv now has nothing to do with espn numbers i guess. Its all about politics according to them as why viewership is down. I love how they constantly bash espn about their “left” leaning views and how they do not tune into sports for politcs but yet all they do is spew their right leaning views. Very hypocritical.

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  22. Trey Wingo’s comment wasn’t moronic. It was right on the money. Taking Roberto Aguayo in the second round was the worst draft pick ever. Aguayo was the only kicker drafted the year he was drafted. If one of Conner Barth’s misses in 2015 would have been a make, his field goal percentage for the season would have been better than his career percentage. I find it hilarious that the Bucs waived Barth when Aguayo was drafted, but the Bears decided to keep Barth instead of Aguayo. Kicking the most extra points is as indicative if not more of making the playoffs than FG accuracy or making the most 50-yd FGs (reasons why the Bucs drafted Aguayo in the first place). There is a large percentage of teams that have undrafted players as their starting kickers. At the time, more weapons for Winston were needed more than a better kicker.

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  23. Calvin Boaz, can you say Ryan Leaf, Bo Jackson that big steroid tackle Green Bay took years ago, Booker Reese etc, etc. Any first or second round pick that doesn’t make the team is a mistake, it doesn’t matter what position he plays and the draft is littered with wasted first and second round picks.
    Did you know I believe it is 50 percent of the players chosen in the first round aren’t in the league after four years. What makes those better picks.
    If Aguayo had kicked in the pros like he did in college he would have been a weapon.
    BTW, I didn’t like the kick either but I have moved on. I suggest you do the same.
    Give it a rest.

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    • Tony Mandrich. That’s the big steroid using tackle you refer to.
      He actually had a some what decent career with Indy.
      Hands down Bo Jackson is the worst ever. At least all those other bums show up to camp.
      Go Bucs

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  24. Skippy is like a hemroid that needs to be removed!

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