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Punter Michael Koenen: Earning The Money

A lot of people were surprised at the $19m deal new Buccaneer punter Michael Koenen signed, those who coach and play the game know the value of this elite special teamer.

While his kick-off specialty skills were likely a factor in evaluating him – though with the new rules, that value has diminished -, Koenen (pronounced “kay-nen”) offers a lot just as a punter. He had a plus-24 differential in terms of punts inside the 20 compared to touchbacks last season.

The more consistently a defense gets to start with the offense backed into a corner, the better. A hard-hitting, physical defense like the Bucs can break up third-and-long passes and can slam the hole and – occasionally – stop a third-and-short run play. The longer the field, the more third downs the other team’s offense has to convert (and despite only allowing 19.9 ppg, the Bucs defense was tied for runner-up in worst 3rd-down percentage with 43% allowed). The Buccaneers defense is elite against the big play. They only allowed 51 plays of 20 or more yards, good for 5th in the NFL.

If you aren’t going to break off eight-yard runs against the Bucs linebackers and you aren’t going to convert a big pass play, your bad field position created by Koenen is going to turn into good field position for the Bucs offense.

The Bucs’ strength for much of last season was their defense. I would have liked to see a veteran pass-rusher added in free agency – and I’m still not sure how close they are to the cap. Adding Koenen just adds to that strength.

His charity, the Michael Koenen Foundation holds the annual Michael Koenen NFL All-Star Football Kids Camp in Washington free of charge. You can find out more details here.


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