Rarely is an “Employee of the Month” recipient the most deserving. Through week 7 in the regular season, St. Louis Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein (aka Legatron) has earned NFL Rookie of the Year consideration for his heart-stopping field goal range, but another special teams newcomer is excelling under the national radar. Jacksonville Jaguars punter Bryan Anger has set his eyes on a multiple-decade NFL career, and his longevity will be fueled by Pele-esque genetics.
Jaguars fans were infuriated when the team reached for Anger in the 3rd round (70th overall) of the NFL draft last April, but his mortar shots have kept a Jacksonville squad last in the league in total offense competitive. Their strained defensive unit, headlined by linebacker Paul Posluszny and cornerback Rashean Mathis, is thankful for the punter’s 44.9 net yard contribution.
Those who closely monitored Anger’s football career can claim he was destined for stardom. After kicking a career-best 76 yard punt as a Cal-Berkeley freshman, the special teamer was acknowledged with a spot on the All-Pac-10/12 First Team for 3 years running. By the time he received his diploma, Anger dropped 90 punts inside the red zone. Scouts had seen enough.
For Jaguars’ GM Gene Smith, Anger’s NFL eligibility was a Godsend. Even the former Golden Bear did not expect to be selected so soon, as he scheduled a draft party for the following day, which announced rounds 4-7. When Smith was asked to justify the pick, he explained that, “You’re trying to acquire players that you feel can improve the talent on your roster…He’s got the right mind for the position and we felt like the advantage in field position certainly is an asset to our defense.”
With the franchise currently tied for 23rd in forced fumbles and interceptions, compounded with the absence of injured playmaker Daryl Smith, Anger’s consistency has given the defense a small cushion for errors.
On top of his net average, good for 3rd in the NFL, Anger has produced 49.3 yards a punt, which is 5th in the league. He has also spotted 9 punts inside the 20 (versus 4 touchbacks), and would have more if not for endless 3-and-out offensive possessions. Consider that predecessor Nick Harris, a 13 year NFL veteran, pinned only 13 punts in 11 games last season. The rookie is special.
Anger sees a bright forecast on the horizon for the Jaguars and himself, and plenty of motivation to boot. He faced off against an all-time great and personal idol in Oakland’s Shane Lechler on Sunday. “I hope I could live up to his name and the things he’s done. That’s what I work for,” Anger exclaimed. “I would definitely love to become the player he has become eventually. He’s amazing.” Such humble words from the future face of NFL punters, the one associated by his teammates as “Banger.” Field goal kickers may grab the publicity, but Anger is out to prove he plays football too.