2019 was not a great year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ special teams. They ranked towards the bottom of the league in most statistical categories. This is in part due to having a new special teams coordinator, and a new kicker, punter, and return men. In this review, we will take a look back at the Buccaneers special teams. While finding the bright spots and identifying where improvement is necessary.
At the end of pre-season, there was no clear cut choice as to who should be the team’s returner. So after the league’s final round of roster cuts, the Bucs went in search of a return man and claimed T.J Logan off waivers. Bruce Arians drafted and coached him in 2017, his final season in Arizona before retiring. So this was a player he saw something in and was willing to take a chance on again.
Logan became the kickoff returner for the first 12 games before being placed on injured reserve after fracturing his thumb. Through those 12 games, Logan averaged 20.8 yards per return. By comparison, the league average was just over 22 yards. The Buccaneers finished the season with a kickoff return average of 19.8, 28th in the NFL. This is an area that Tampa needs to improve next season. It may be wise to draft or sign a player this off-season to compete with Logan and Dare Ogunbowale for the return job.
Where Logan really thrived was as a punt returner. Up until week six, Bobo Wilson was returning punts and averaged an abysmal 2.8 yards per return. Logan, who had never fielded a punt in his first two NFL seasons was then given an opportunity and he made the most of it. Averaging 9.5 yards per return over the next 6 games before being sent to injured reserve. If he did that for the entire season, the Bucs would have had the sixth best punt return average in the league, instead of finishing 28th with an average of 5.2.
Kickin’ It With Gay & Pinion
During the 2018 off-season, the Buccaneers added a new kicker and punter, with hopes that they would be players the team’s special units could be built around for years to come. Matt Gay was drafted in the fifth round out of Utah and was known for having a strong leg and ability to kick accurately in inclement weather. Bradley Pinion was signed after spending his first four years with the San Francisco 49ers. His best attributes were his ability to pin offenses inside of their own 20-yard line and being able to kick off the ball.
In his rookie season, Gay had a heavy workload, attempting the 5th most field goals in the NFL(35) and the result was a mixed bag. Successful on 77.1% of his kicks, he ranked 21st in the league. Extra points were also a somewhat troublesome area for him, missing roughly one in every ten. It wasn’t all bad though. There were stretches of the season where Gay was automatic. He just needs to become a little more consistent with his mid-range kicks, something I expect to improve in year two.
Punting Less is a Good Thing
There was little to judge Pinion on in his first season in Tampa Bay. Only six teams punted the ball fewer times. Something that hopefully can be a trend over the coming years. His biggest impact came on kickoffs. Pinion forced teams into touchbacks on 90.7% of his kicks. That was by far the most in the NFL. The one area I would like to see him improve a little in is his yards per punt, where the Bucs ranked 28th with an average of 43.2 in 2019.
Overall this was a below-average year for the Buccaneers special teams. There is a lot of areas where they are going to need to improve next season. Someone with experience needs to be brought in to compete for the kick return job so that T.J Logan can focus more so on the punt return game. Aside from that, Keith Armstrong has a long track record of being a very good special teams coach. So in his second season, I expect that we will see improvement across the board from his players.
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times