With Bucs training camp quickly approaching the PewterReport.com staff asks – and answers – 15 critical camp questions that need to be addressed this August as Tampa Bay prepares to embark on the 2019 season. Over the next 15 days PewterReport.com will offer up its thoughts on the topics that the Bucs will need to sort out in order for the team to be successful this season and possibly compete for a long-awaited playoff berth.
These are the things that the PewterReport.com staff will be following closely in camp, and invite our readers to share their thoughts as well in the comment section.
Who Wins The Kick Return Job?
One of the objectives for Bruce Arians and special teams coach Keith Armstrong was to revamp the special teams in 2019. Last year, the Bucs had a returner by committee for kick return that averaged just 18.4 yards per attempt. They also didn’t fair any better with punts, averaging 6.6 yards per attempt. In other words, their return game was mediocre.
Coming into 2019, it’s an open field for the competition to be the team’s returner, and competition for the job was exactly what Armstrong wanted for all parts of this unit.
Two of last year’s returners are no longer on the team as Shaun Wilson was released in June and Adam Humphries signed with the Titans in the offseason. That leaves Ogunbowale and Bobo Wilson as the incumbents with rookies Scotty Miller and Spencer Schnell as possibilities to win the job as well.
Both Ogubowale and Wilson had some flashes in the return game in a limited role. Ogunbowale only had one game as a kick returner last season but made the most of the opportunity. In week 10 against the Giants, he had seven returns for 137 yards and an average of 19.57 yards per return with one tackle as well. Wilson had 10 returns spread out over four games, averaging 28 yards per game.
Bucs WR Bobo Wilson – Photo by: Getty Images
While Wilson had some better numbers statically speaking, the new coaching staff has watched the film and have been very complimentary of Ogubowale this offseason, which is why he’ll win the job. He brings a thumping kind of running style where he’s initiating contact to run over a defender rather than avoiding him.
Armstrong was a fan of his physical nature and mentioned him as someone that stood out when speaking of him at a press conference in May.
“[He] gets up the field, vertical,” Armstrong said. “I think it was the Giants game up in New York, he hit the crease and took it, and I mean took it. A lot of guys would have just danced in the hole and would of tried to duck and take a hit, but he hit it. I like the fact that he likes to get the ball up the field, doesn’t waste a whole lot of time, when there’s a crease, he hits it.
As long as we can knock that thing out and create drive starts, knock the ball out to the 30 yard-line, now you’re getting what you want. Then the big plays are going to come after that.”
He also received attention from Arians.
“He can run,” Arians said. “He’s got some natural ability back there, and as a punt returner, just wait and see. I’ve got to go out and see them catch the ball. It doesn’t always have to be a 4.3 guy, because one of the best I ever saw was a 4.7, because he could make the first guy miss.”
The question of who wins this role may come down to who can do more on special teams besides just returning. Wilson might be the odd man out in the receivers group with the addition of Miller, Schnell, and Breshad Perriman. At running back, Ogubowale is slated behind Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Andre Ellington and Bruce Anderson, so it will be up to these players to carve out a role on special teams in order to make the 53-man roster.
As far as the case for Miller and Schnell, they both have a ton a speed with a 4.30 40-yard dash for Miller and a 4.53 for Schnell, respectively. They would best be suited for punt return with a better chance to break one loose. Don’t be surprised if Miller earns that role along with the fifth receiver spot while Schnell makes it to the practice squad.
Kickoff return has been watered down over the years with rule changes and moving the touchback out to the 25-yard line, but it’s still an area that the Bucs need to improve. Much can change once the pads are on, but it will be an interesting competition to follow during this year’s training camp.