The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a number of on-field problems last season and part of that was due to the absence of two key players.
Now, those two guys are just about healthy.
Kicker Connor Barth and guard Carl Nicks are close to being 100 percent again after injury clogged seasons. Barth missed the whole year after injuring himself while playing basketball in the off-season. Nicks only played two games as he battled a toe injury and a bout with the infamous MRSA.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Barth says he is feeling great.
PK Connor Barth says he has been kicking since last Oct after surgery to repair his right Achilles tear. Making 61 yd FGs he says.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) March 28, 2014
While kickers are often overlooked, the return of Barth cannot be overstated. He’s one of the leagues best kickers and his absence was noticeable in 2013 as Bucs fans dealt with the inconsistency of Rian Lindell.
Barth hit 93 percent of his field goals in 2011 while in 2012 he connected on 86 percent. He has never missed an extra point in his five-year career, demonstrating his consistency and importance to the Bucs.
The Bucs have shown they are committed to Barth in 2014, as they didn’t tender Lindell an offer, which wasn’t a surprise anyway. Barth doesn’t become a free agent until 2016 as part of the four-year, $13.2 million deal he signed in 2012.
It’s also pleasing for the Bucs brass to hear Nicks is working hard to get healthy. Some have already labelled him a wasted free agent signing (he’s played only nine games in two seasons after signing a hefty five-year, $47.5 million deal), despite him being one of the more dominant guards in the NFL.
Bucs senior writer Scott Smith offered an update on Nicks’ condition.
Coach Smith on Carl Nicks: He's working extremely hard to get back on the football field.
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) March 26, 2014
It’s encouraging that Nicks is so determined to get back into playing shape and for the Bucs that is a good thing. They also must have a lot of trust that Nicks is going to be ready to play this year since they traded Jeremy Zuttah to Baltimore, who primarily replaced Nicks in the line-up over the last two seasons. However, the Bucs still need some depth on the offensive line in case Nicks has a setback, and the draft will likely be where the Bucs target their insurance policy.
The offensive line has gone under somewhat of a transformation this off-season, and in some capacity, Nicks is part of that. He hasn’t played enough for Bucs fans to really see what he is capable of, but it appears that 2014 will finally be that year.
Tags: Tampa Bay Buccaneers