The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave fans at One Buc Place their first look at who may end up running back kicks in 2016.
About 30 minutes into Sunday’s fourth training camp practice, green skull caps were pulled over 11 helmets and the team went through kick return drills. Lined up in the end zone throughout the period were receivers Adam Humphries and Jonathan Krause, running back Mike James and cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay will enter the 2016 season seeking a replacement on kick and punt returns since Bobby Rainey was not retained and is now working for a job with the New York Giants. Rainey was responsible for all of the team’s 29 punt returns and 14 fair catches and 19 of 21 kick returns. The other Buc to bring back a kick last season was receiver Donteea Dye, who took the other two.
Rainey was little more than a serviceable option. His kick and punt return yardage averages of 24.7 and 9.9, respectively, were middle of the pack. Severely damaging Rainey’s numbers and chances of staying in Tampa Bay were seven muffed punts. He recovered the majority of those, but, combined with a lack of explosiveness, replacing Rainey became a priority.
Of four players back deep Sunday, Verner is the only one with NFL experience doing the job – and it’s not much. In 2013 – the year prior to his arrival in Tampa Bay – he returned one punt for 11 yards and one kick for 17 while with the Tennessee Titans.
As far as returning punts, Humphries, Krause and Verner have gotten underneath balls shot out of JUGS machines during camp, as well as receiver Bernard Reedy. Absent in these drills early in camp has been receiver Kenny Bell.
All five of the above-mentioned options have varying levels of experience returning kicks and punts while in college. Humphries functioned as Clemson’s primary punt returner and Reedy often did the same with punts and kicks at Toldeo. Most of Krause’s returns at Vanderbilt came on punts and Verner (UCLA) and James (Miami) were limited in their return use.