TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Kicker Michael Koenen #9 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers follows a kickoff against the Atlanta Falcons September 25, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed essentially one outside free agent this offseason: punter Michael Koenen. They signed him to a six-year, $19.5 million deal. Unsurprisingly, the Bucs were subsequently the subject of ridicule for about two days, before everyone moved on to something more interesting.
But signing Michael Koenen has turned out to be a very good decision. The punter is having a career year so far, with a gross average of 45.6 yards per punt and a net average of 41.7 yards per punt, which is ranked 6th in the league. His gross average is a little more pedestrian, but is also suppressed because of the situations in which he has punted: his 18 punts downed inside the 20 lead the league. He has produced only one touchback on the year, and by Football Outsiders' numbers the Bucs' punting ranks third in the NFL this season.
Interestingly, though, Michael Koenen has been rather pedestrian as a kickoff specialist, even though his prowess as a kickoff specialist played a major role in the Bucs' decision to sign him. He has produced touchbacks on 50% of his kickoffs, which ranks tied for 13th in the NFL. On the other hand, the average return of just 19.9 yards does rank third in the NFL - although that's offset by a third from the bottom ranking in gross kickoff average.
Regardless, Michael Koenen was one of the few bright spots on Sunday. The kicker had another great day, producing 6 points for a 44.2-yard gross average and a 42.5-yard net average, including two punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He helped limit the Texans to four returns for just ten yards. In addition, his one kickoff was a touchback.
The only blemish was a failed onside kick, although that didn't appear to be his fault. The kick seemed nearly perfect, but the Bucs just couldn't cover it up. Regardless, Koenen continues to prove he was worth his money. Too bad most of the rest of the team is failing to do the same.