If you're a natural born skeptic like me, you may be curious about the Buccaneers one and only free agent acquisition thus far, punter Michael Koenen. We have been hearing about what a great addition he is, but recently a Falcons fan dropped into one of our threads and said he thought Koenen's leg had lost a bit over the past couple of seasons. So I decided to do a bit of research and see for myself. Below I have compared both the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers punting statistics for the 2010 season. I think you may be surprised. All stats are pulled from espn.com.
Not nearly as big a difference as we thought huh? For starters, the rank is insignificant. It is just ordered in terms of total punt yardage, which is pretty much a useless stat in my opinion. Next, we can easily see right off the bat that Tampa and Atlanta had a fairly similar punting game last season. Total yards, punt average, and net yards are all virtually identical.
Koenen makes a significant improvement over the Bucs punters in punts landed inside the twenty (ranked 8th), as well as punts that were fair caught (ranked 2nd). The return average was almost a yard and a half less for Tampa, but that doesn't really fall on Koenen's shoulders so much as the coverage teams.
Koenen ranked 26th in net yards last season. That may be the most telling stat of all. He's certainly not the worst in the NFL, and once on the opposing end of the field he is worth every penny of that $3.5M salary, but those net yards may indeed be a cause for concern. The thing that concerns me most is obviously his leg power. He was actually a little worse than the guys that the Bucs scraped off the bottom of the barrel last season after they wasted a sixth round draft pick on Virginia Tech's Brent Bowden.
Ultimately I'm taking the wait and see approach with Koenen. This is a small sample size, and I'll admit that last year may have been an outlier, because I simply didn't take the time to look up his stats from previous years. I also realize that some of Koenen's value is tied in with his ability to kick off, but think that particular asset is pretty much negated by the rule change this year.
What do you think Bucs Nation? Did we overpay for an average punter? Does Mark Dominik over value the position after spending a sixth rounder on Bowden and then shelling out almost twenty million for a free agent?