While the season is still far away (who else is counting down the seconds like I am?), it is never too early to start looking ahead at what the Bucs will bring to the field this season. I will be looking at all of the positions on Bucs roster, from quarterbacks to the kickers, breaking down all the players, from starter to bench warmer, and giving them a grade based on potential, skill, experience and other areas. This first grading is based on the kicker/punter position. I know, not the most exciting position on the team, but one that is very important and can change a game in our favor.
First on this segment, are the punters. The Bucs only have one punter, the rookie Brent Bowden out of Virginia Tech (see my early blog on his stats). Bowden has a strong leg and good accuracy, but the pressure is on his shoulders. The Bucs cut veteran Sam Paulescu who had 27 punts last year, averaging 43.4 yards a kick. Bowden averaged 43.8 yards a kick at VT and landed 20 punts inside the opponents 20 yard line, always nice to have a punter that can change the battle of field position. If anything goes wrong in the punting game, there is no one to back Bowden. He should have a good season though.
The kicker position is also very young. Connor Barth is the “experienced’ kicker.” The 5’11″ and 193 lb. kicker made the game winning 47 yard field goal in the upset win over the Saints last season and became the starting kicker. He has good leg strength and pretty good accuracy. Behind him is the undrafted rookie, Hunter Lawrence out of Texas. Lawrence made the last second field goal that led Texas past Nebraska in the exciting Big 12 Championship. He was signed quickly after the draft due to his leg strength and to help provide some depth behind Barth. He may play some this season, depending on injuries and how well Barth performs.
Overall grade: C. Now before everyone gets upset for grading the position so low, look at the players on the roster. They are all young, two of them have no NFL experience, fresh out of college. The only veteran, Barth, has not played in many games. So the punters and kickers are for now an average group, nothing terrible, but nothing spectacular either at this point. They have potential to play well and beat my grade for them, but that won’t happen until week 1 of the NFL season.