Mid-Season Report: Special Teams

Kickers shouldn't ever flex.
Kickers shouldn't ever flex. /
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Kickers shouldn't ever flex.
Kickers shouldn't ever flex. /

We continue our mid-season breakdown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by examining their special teams units.

So far on the year the Buccaneers special teams have been solid enough. The return game has yielded some good field position and a touchdown on the legs of Michael Spurlock. The kicking has been consistent and the punting is improving with the signing of Robert Malone.

Return Game

The return game has been arguably the best aspect of special teams. Sammie Stroughter and Michael Spurlock are both averaging just over 27 yards per kickoff return. Preston Parker has averaged just under 20, but needs to learn to just go and not try and to jump around as much.

Without a doubt Michael Spurlock has been the best return man, not just this season but in Bucs history. He ran back an 89-yard return against the Falcons for a score in a game that he averaged 50 yards a per kick return. The Bucs haven’t made opposing teams punt enough to have really done much in the punt return game, but are averaging seven yards per return.

Of course the understated part of all this is the blocking, the Buccaneers have seen solid blocking on most of their returns, they’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to penalties there. The most important aspect of that phase just goes back to team discipline, something the Bucs have struggled with.

Additionally, the Bucs have been solid in their kick coverage. They’re holding their opponents to an average of just 20 yards per return on kickoffs and just 6.8 per punt. They’ve yet to surrender a touchdown or a return of over 43 yards. That can improve, but the special teams isn’t hand-cuffing the Bucs struggling defensive unit either.

Kicking

Connor Barth is slowly beginning to earn my trust. On the season he’s 11 for 14, but three of those misses came in a loss to the Saints and he’s gone five of six since that game. A lot of times for kickers an O-for that came with multiple misses can get really stick with them. Barth seems to have gotten past it and not let it get inside his head.

Barth is also a perfect eight for eight inside of 40 yards and he’s 10 of 12 inside 50 yards, but just one for two outside of 50. That’s still a solid NFL kicker, not exceptional, but inside of the 32 yard-line the Bucs can be confident in at least coming away with three. That’s what you have to have out of a kicker.

Punting

The punting game has been inconsistent for the Buccaneers this season, after choosing to replace Chris Bryan with Robert Malone things seem to have gotten a bit better. Bryan averaged 37.4 per punt with seven down inside the 20 in 23 attempts. Malone has average 41.6 yards and has pinned nearly half his attempt inside the 20 yard-line (seven of 16).

Grade: B

The Bucs special teams this season haven’t been exceptional, but they’ve been solid.