JACKSONVILLE – All in all, Bryan Anger said he's pleased.
Anger, the Jaguars' rookie punter, said absolutely there are things that could have been better this year. Absolutely, he could have been more consistent. And there are areas on which he will work in the offseason.
But to have the season he had? And to have been named a Pro Bowl second alternate?
Even considering the improvement he expects in the near future, and even considering the expectations surrounding him entering the season, Anger said no question he has to consider his first NFL season a success.
"Overall, it has been a pretty good year," Anger said as the Jaguars (2-13) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (5-10) in the regular-season finale at LP Field in Nashville Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I had a couple of off games, but overall, it's been a good year."
Anger said his goal was to keep his net average his high, and as the season draws to a close, he not only did that, but finished the season with remarkable numbers.
Considering he was a rookie, that was particularly true.
Anger, the Jaguars' third-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, not only ranks third in the NFL through 15 games with a 42.4-yard average on 86 punts, he also is third in the NFL with 38 punts of 50 or more yards.
"He's done a lot of things that I haven't seen a rookie punter or a lot of punters do," Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said, emphasizing that Anger has combined hang time with distance on a rare level.
"There are a lot of guys who can outkick their coverage," Mularkey said. "I don't feel like he does that. His hang time with the length of the kick is what's been impressive about him. We can cover his kicks, and that's something that's special in this league."
Anger with one game remaining has a very real chance to finish the season as the best rookie punter in NFL history. He is on pace to set rookie records for highest gross punting average and highest net average. His 47.9-yard average is 1.2 yards ahead of Brett Kern's 2008 record of 46.7, and his 42.4-yard net is 3.5 yards ahead of the record of 38.9 yards set by Matt Bosher with Atlanta last season.
While his numbers have been striking for a rookie, Anger said they could have been better, and that he believes with experience, they should improve. He called his consistency "so-so," saying he had about one mishit a game, something he expects to improve upon. But in general, he said he has improved steadily since what he considered an "off" sophomore season, and he said he expects that trend to continue.
"The main part is consistency, learning more and picking up tidbits from other people," he said. "Just learning about myself, you should consistently improve. That sets the NFL apart. Some college kids have big legs, but can't consistently hit a good ball.
"I definitely can improve my consistency, and that just comes with time and maturing."
Anger on Wednesday was named as the second alternate to the Pro Bowl, with Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt being named the AFC's punter.
"It's an honor to be thrown into the mix now," Anger said. "Of course, everybody wants to be the top guy, but it gives you something to work toward. Hopefully, we'll get some more wins as a team and I can help out and be more productive next year."
Also on Thursday:
- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed practice for a second consecutive day with a foot injury, and guard Uche Nwaneri (concussion) also missed a second consecutive day. Jones-Drew has missed the last nine games, and Nwaneri is expected to take a concussion test Friday. Linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) worked limited Thursday, as did linebacker Julian Stanford (hip), while defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (calf), fullback Greg Jones (thigh), cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin), center Brad Meester (foot), linebacker Paul Posluszny (groin) and cornerback Aaron Ross (calf) all worked full Thursday.
- Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski on Thursday reiterated what Mularkey said Wednesday – that when it comes to the starting quarterback entering the 2013 season, the decision must wait until the offseason. Mularkey said Wednesday more would be known about the quarterback situation when the team finished the process of evaluating the 2012 season, and Bratkowski on Thursday said that's a process done away from the emotion of the season. At that time, Bratkowsi said the entire body of work – reads, management of the offense, protection calls, productivity – of both Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert can be analyzed. "That's when we'll try to determine how we'll move forward after we do those things," he said. "But to say it right now I don't think would be fair to anybody. I think you want to get back, let the season go, let everything clear a little bit and then you go and you look to see where you're at and see how the performances were and make your decision at that point."
- Bratkowski also said while injuries and changes along the offensive line haven't "hamstrung" the offense, the situation hasn't been ideal. If Nwaneri is unable to play, the Jaguars on Sunday will be starting their fifth different offensive line group in as many games. "In a perfect world you'd like five guys to work together for an entire year," Bratkowski said. "It happens sometimes. Sometimes you'll have one guy in. The lack of continuity just kind of holds back the productivity at times."