Whenever you start a new endeavor you are said to be ‘kicking it off’. When there is an important matter above your pay grade you ‘kick it upstairs’. When faced with an important decision you ‘kick it around for awhile’. When you were in grade school, one of the best days at PE (physical education) was kick ball day. There is just something about using your legs to jettison an object as hard as you can in no specific direction, it just makes you feel good inside. Lately, the Buccaneers special teams have been trying to stop ‘kicking themselves’.
A State Of Flux
When the Buccaneers selected Utah Ute’s Kicker Matt Gay in the 5th round of this year’s draft it was a solid start for the Buccaneers 2019 special teams improvement project to be led of coach Chris Boniol. Having released punter Brian Anger this offseason, and even with the improvement last season after the addition of placekicker Carlos Santos, the Buccaneer kicking game is still very much a work in progress.
A Stabilizing Effect
Enter special teams coach, Chris Boniol. If you want to develop a kicking game, you don’t just go after a former player who broke the Dallas Cowboys record for most consecutive field goals in 1995 with 26 and then broke his own record in 1996 with 27. Just owning a Super Bowl ring like coach Boniol has, which he won in his second season as a Cowboy in 1995 doesn’t mean he has the ability to help a team that has seemed so cursed in the last 1/2 decade develop the winning recipe to special teams magic. It’s the work that Boniol has done since hanging up the cleats that gives Buccaneer fans hope.
Brought on board with the Cowboys in 2010 as a special teams assistant, Boniol would work with rookie Dan Bailey in 2011, as Bailey set a club record for field goals in a season at 32, tie Boniol’s own consecutive field goals made at 26 and win NFL Rookie honors. In one year with the Oakland Raiders, Boniol would help improve Sebastian Janikowski’s FG percentage rate 14 points as well as develop Marquette King into one of the leagues premiere punters.
Time To Get Schooled
Most impressive and for the Buccaneers, most needed is the type of work Coach Boniol has been doing for the past three years. As special teams consultant to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Boniol recruited, taught and developed special teams excellence. In 2017 the Bulldogs would be the only college team to have two specialists selected in the NFL draft, long snapper Hunter Bradley(GB), and punter Logan Cooke(JAX). Under Coach Boniol’s tutelage in 2018 sophomore Jace Christmann was a perfect all season on PAT’s(40) and the Bulldogs special teams would play a large part in landing the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Raymond James stadium on New Year’s Day for the Outback Bowl against Iowa.
With a mentor like Coach Chris Boniol the 2019 Buccaneers kicking game looks to be headed in the right direction. Tampa Bay is ready for a ‘kick in the grass’, not a ‘kick in the a_’. The Buccaneers are crossing fingers that the 2019 team is able to take the kicking inconsistency of late and just ‘kick the habit’.