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Inside the Jaguars, 05/05

Posted May 5, 2012

Senior writer John Oehser takes a look inside Day 2 of the Jaguars’ three-day mini-camp at EverBank Field

JUST HANGING

For Bryan Anger, the thing is the hang – hang time, that is.

The Jaguars selected the California punter in the third round of last weekend’s 2012 NFL Draft, and did so to a chorus of skeptics wondering if that was too early to select a punter.

Anger averaged 43.5 yards a punt in college while directional punting – i.e., trying to land the ball between the hash marks and the sideline. He also averaged 60 yards on three punts at the East-West Shrine game, but discussion this week around the Jaguars about Anger centers on his hang time.

A punt considered very good in the NFL typically has between 4.5 and about 4.7 hang time, with anything above five seconds considered outstanding.

Anger said he has been averaging about five seconds lately. Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey timed each of Anger’s punts in practice Saturday and said he was averaging around 5.1 seconds. An unofficial timing Saturday had Anger’s hang time typically anywhere between 4.9 and 5.2 seconds.

“I’ve been hitting the ball well lately,” Anger said Saturday. “I’ve been averaging about five seconds, and averaged five at the combine. I feel really good right now.”

Anger said following Friday’s workout that he felt a little off. When that was relayed to Mularkey on Saturday, the head coach replied, “If he was off, it was a good off.”

Anger said he has been timed at 5.7 seconds in games, and once hit a punt with 6.0-second hang time in a private practice.

“The 6.0 shocked me,” Anger said. “I hit the perfect punt and hit it 6.00 on the dot.”

And while Anger said he is aware that his selection caused a stir among media and observers, he said, “As long as I perform, people will realize what’s going on, and kind of quiet, I guess.”

“Kickers and punters never get attention unless something goes really, really wrong,” he said. “Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.”

 

BACK IN TOWN

Naufahu Tahi hasn’t spent much time around EverBank Field.

But the Westside of Jacksonville, and the city’s beaches? That’s a different story.

Tahi, a five-year NFL veteran in mini-camp this week as a workout veteran, spent 2001 and 2002 in Jacksonville doing mission work for the Mormon Church. This was after his freshman year at Brigham Young, and he returned to BYU after the mission.

Tahi spent the time going door to door spreading the word for the church in various areas of Jacksonville and nearby Gainesville, and said working in the Bible Belt made the assignment difficult.

“It was rough work here in Florida,” he said, smiling.

Tahi originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bengals in 2006, and spent several months in the Bengals’ practice squad with Jaguars offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski holding the same position in Cincinnati.

He then signed with the Vikings, where he played from 2006-2010. He became a free agent last off-season, and was not re-signed by Minnesota after the lockout.

“Last fall was the first time in a long time not playing football,” he said. “I did my best to keep busy, stay in shape and do all of the things I needed to do in case I got a call. Hopefully it goes well. I’d like to be here in Jacksonville.”

 

WHAT MULARKEY SAYS

“Effort is something everybody has the ability to do. Learning a new play or a new scheme some guys are quicker than others, but effort is one thing that everybody has the ability to do. There’s no advantage one way or another. You can play with it and these guys did a good job to come in here. We have a lot to evaluate off of based on this amount of work.”

 

WHAT DL COACH JOE CULLEN SAYS ABOUT SECOND-ROUND END ANDRE BRANCH

“He has exceptional hand speed and can cover a lot of ground. He’s athletic and can bend. He looks good.”

 

WHAT BRANCH SAYS

“It’s been great. It’s been a great experience just getting back in football shape and getting used to the heat. Everything is going good and everybody is out here competing. Football is still football. I feel like everybody hasn’t been playing football in so long, so everybody is just getting the rust off.”

 

WHAT WE SAW

There wasn’t much to see in the morning practice, which was essentially a walkthrough, but there were highlights in the afternoon. Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon had several catches throughout the day on which he reached behind and made catches on errant passes, showing the body control that helped make him the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. Florida A&M rookie wide receiver Kevin Elliott also had several long receptions.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The 50 players participating this weekend – six drafted players, 17 undrafted free agents and 27 workout invitees – will practice once Sunday, after which the mini-camp will end. The six drafted players and 17 undrafted free agents are on the 90-man roster unless waived, while the 27 workout invitees could be signed to the 90-man roster, though there are no guarantees. The mini-camp remains closed to the public, with the team’s organized team activities – also closed to the public – scheduled to begin in mid-May.

 

TODAY’S TAKE

We’re not going to beat you over the head with the Anger stuff much more this weekend. Taking a punter in the third round has been debated all week, and likely will continue. By this point, you either agree or you don’t. What’s not debatable is the conviction among the Jaguars that the selection was a good one – and the conviction that he is special. Anger’s hang time is consistently in the 5.0-range, considered the benchmark for an above average NFL punt. What’s notable from talking to Anger extensively on Saturday is that while he understands the debate over his selection he’s not much fazed by it. He knows he’s good, and while he’s not cocky about it, he seems to have a belief that over time he’ll be able to show he was a quality selection. That may or may not quiet the debate, but it certainly increases the chances that he’ll be a difference-making player.

 

QUICK HITS

*Mularkey said it’s easy to see that of the three quarterbacks in camp, Jordan Palmer has the most NFL experience. Palmer spent three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, from 2008-2010. “He has experience,” Palmer said. “He has game experience, he has lots of camp experience. You can tell he’s just much more comfortable calling the plays and calling the cadence.”

*Mularkey said Day 2 overall was better than the first day of practice Friday. “I think a lot of the tension was out of these guys,” Mularkey said. “I thought they wasted a lot of energy yesterday with nerves. It was hotter today and we had better energy, better finish and better production today than yesterday.”

*Mularkey said he expects the Jaguars will have a kicker in organized team activities beginning in mid-May. If Josh Scobee – who has yet to sign his franchise tender and has not participated in the off-season program – is not there, Mularkey said the kicker at OTAs likely will be one of the two in this weekend’s minicamp: Chinese-born Long Ding of Norwich or Jay Wooten of South Carolina.

*Mularkey said cornerback Mike Harris – a sixth-round selection in the draft – and wide receiver Mike Brown have played well in camp. Brown, a workout rookie, played quarterback at Liberty and made the switch to wide receiver in this cap.

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