Unsung heroes of the NFC South

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

A few days ago, a reader sent a note to the mailbag, asking me to give some recognition to Atlanta punter Michael Koenen.

The note basically said that Koenen, who also kicks off and holds on extra points and field goals, is perhaps Atlanta's biggest unsung hero. So here's a little recognition for Koenen.

You look at his stats and nothing knocks you over. But consider the overall package and Koenen truly is an unsung hero. He simply goes out and does his job (make that three different jobs) very consistently. He's put 19 punts inside the 20-yard line, he does a nice job as a directional punter, his kickoffs are solid and he does a nice job as a holder.

That takes care of Koenen and the Falcons, but it's only fair to single out an unsung hero for each of the division's other teams.


Jason Kyle is a name you might not have heard and that's a good thing. It means he's doing his job. Kyle is the long-snapper for the Panthers and he's as reliable as they come. He almost never has a bad snap and he can run down the field and make a tackle for you now and then.


In five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jimmy Wilkerson didn't do much of anything. In his first season with the Bucs, Wilkerson has four sacks as a backup defensive end. He's actually Tampa Bay's fourth end behind Kevin Carter, Gaines Adams and Greg White, but he's rotating in often and has landed in a good system.


A lot of people assume the Saints have a tremendous offensive line because quarterback Drew Brees so rarely gets sacked. That's not entirely true because much of the reason for that goes to an offensive system that doesn't use a lot of deep drops and because Brees excels at getting rid of the ball so quickly. The truth is the Saints don't have a lot of exceptional individual talent on their line, but they do work well together. The key to that may be right guard Jahri Evans, who is New Orleans' best offensive lineman. He truly has become the anchor of a line that seems to switch centers about every year. Evans, a former fourth-round pick from Bloomsburg, has blossomed into a very solid player. Don't be surprised if the Saints try to lock him up with a contract extension before the season ends.