JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Before third-round draft pick Bryan Anger even arrived in Jacksonville, the Jaguars eliminated all competition for the team's punting job.
After three days of rookie camp, it looks like a sound decision.
Anger averaged about 5 seconds of hang time during the camp, showing why the Jaguars used an early round pick on a special teams player. Whether it changes public perception remains to be seen.
The Jaguars were widely criticized for drafting Anger with the 70th overall pick, with many questioning why a team coming off a 5-11 season and seemingly needing more talent and depth on both sides of the ball would spend a third-rounder at a position that typically gets on the field six or seven times a game.
General manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey defended the pick as best they could. Terry McDonough, the team's personnel director, even challenged reporters to compare Anger to other third-round draft picks in four years and see who has been more productive.
Anger, though, did the most to justify the selection in camp. Not only did he have the all-important hang time, he showed he has distance and direction — little things that can mean a lot in close games.
"They believe I can do the job, and I believe I can do the job," Anger said Sunday. "It's a great environment to excel."
Although Anger was impressive, he was the first to acknowledge that his performance came in nearly perfect weather, without a live rush and far removed from a pressure situation.
Nonetheless, Mularkey watched every kick.
"Rarely do you have a guy that kicks it that far that can hang it for that long," Mularkey said. "It's either a trajectory shot that is right down the field and returnable in most cases. But rarely do you see ones that can be kicked that far and hang that high where you can actually go down and defend the return. That's what I see."
The Jaguars lost a game last season because of punting problems. Veteran Matt Turk had a 22-yarder late against Cincinnati, setting up the winning score.
Jacksonville cut Turk two days later and signed veteran Nick Harris off the street. Harris was an improvement, but still ranked 23rd in net punting. The Jags were so confident in Anger that they waived Harris and fellow punter Spencer Lanning a day after drafting him.