The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have historically struggled on special teams. The franchise spent decades in search of their first kickoff return touchdown, and have been on blooper reels for failures in the kicking and punting game.
New head coach Lovie Smith has mentioned special teams quite a few times during his press tour after being introduced as head coach, but he won’t be able to make all of the needed changes on his own.
Special teams coach Kevin O’Dea hopes to be the one to change all that, and it will most likely start with an emphasis on the return game.
In speaking to Tom Krasniqi of 620 WDEA in Tampa, O’Dea said that having a great return man is vital for special teams.
New #Bucs special teams coach Kevin O’Dea believes having a great return man is vital. Hint-hint: Devin Hester or Dexter McCluster
— Tom Krasniqi (@TKras) January 29, 2014
And as Krasniqi hints, that might mean looking elsewhere to find the sort of returner the Buccaneers need to have a difference maker at the position.
Devin Hester makes the most sense to help bolster the Tampa Bay return game.
In the franchise’s history, dating back almost 40 years, the Buccaneers have four kickoff return touchdowns and 11 punt return touchdowns. In his eight-year NFL career, Hester has eclipsed both of those totals with five kickoff return touchdowns and 13 punt return touchdowns.
But Hester is reaching the end of his career, and has scored only one return touchdown in his last two seasons combined.
McCluster is an interesting option that also solves the Bucs need for a slot receiver, but he’ll likely cost a bit more and will be more sought after on the free agent market.
And should he return to health and focus on football rather than track, Jeff Demps will likely get his chance in this role, although it’s unclear just how good of a returner he’ll be in the NFL. His decision-making on returns was questionable this past season, and speed alone isn’t enough to make a return man successful.
How do you believe the Buccaneers will upgrade their special teams? Leave us a comment in the comment section below.