When the 2010 NFL Draft concluded, almost everyone would give Tampa a good grade considering they drafted the top defensive tackle prospect in Gerald McCoy, one of the biggest second round steals in Brian Price, and addressed a handful of other needs with their remaining picks. But when it was all said and done, I bet no one noticed their sixth round pick, who, perhaps, could be one of their key players in 2010. Anybody recognize the name of Brent Bowden? Anyboy? Bueller…? Well, you soon will know his name as he will be the starting punter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on opening day. Don’t let the sixth round image fool you, Bowden was a very successful punter in college at Virgina Tech, and hopefully will bring that to the Bay this season.
In all honesty, many fans do not give enough respect towards the punters or kickers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make an impact. Just think about all the times Adam Vinitieri made a last second field goal for the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl runs. Now punters are a little different then kickers, but they do have the capability to pin the opposing offense deep in their territory, something that can ultimately be the difference in a close game.
In 2009, the Bucs had Dirk Johnson handling most of the punting duties (11 games). But how did his numbers stack up against two of the league’s best punters, Jeff Feagles and Mike Scifres? In 62 punts, Johnson nailed 16 of those punts within the opponent’s 20-yard line. Feagles, on the other hand, nailed 23 of his 64 total punts within the opponent’s 20-yard line. Now the New York Giants finished the season 8-8, while Tampa Bay finished at 3-13. Now does this mean that punting was the only difference between the two teams? No, not at all, but you have to think that Feagles’ ability to nail the opponent in their own 20 yard line gave his defense a big boost throughout the course of the season.
The same theory applies to the San Diego Chargers’ punting specialist, Mike Scifres. In only 52 punt attempts, he placed 23 of his punts within the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Chargers ended up finishing 13-3 on the season, and Scifres certainly helped them earn that record.
Percentage of punts that went within the 20-yard line:
- Dirk Johnson: 25%
- Jeff Feagles: 36%
- Mike Scifres: 44%
Now don’t take this story the wrong way, I’m not saying that punters can be the main difference in a game, but when it comes to a battle of field position late in the second half, a well placed punt inside the 20 could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Bowden’s collegiate numbers stack up very well with Jeff Feagles. The Virgina Tech product netted 34% of his punts inside the 20, and recorded 40 punts that traveled further then 50 yards. Let’s hope that Bowden can bring these numbers with him to Tampa, and give the Bucs’ defense a chance to bring the pressure deep in the opposing team’s territory.