FAB 4. Bucs’ Special Teams Are Anything But Special
The worst kept secret in the NFL is that the Bucs’ special teams have been awful for years – and not just because Tampa Bay has struggled mightily at the kicker position. For the second straight year, the Bucs cut a veteran kicker midseason and signed a replacement. Nick Folk was released and replaced by Patrick Murray in 2017, and last year saw Chandler Catanzaro get cut and replaced by Cairo Santos.
But the Bucs had other special teams concerns, including a pitiful kick return game, a lackluster punt return game and so-so coverage units. Longtime NFL reporter Rick Gosselin puts out his annual special teams rankings, and – no surprise – the Bucs didn’t fare too well.
The Big Takeaway
Tampa Bay finished with an aggregate 444 points and was tied with Dallas for 27th in the league in Gosselin’s special teams rankings. Green Bay was the worst-rated team with 470.5 points while the New York Jets were the best with 231, followed by New Orleans (243), Kansas City (248), Miami (296.5) and Arizona (301).
Helping the Jets’ ranking was the fact that return specialist Andre Roberts and kicker Jason Myers went to the Pro Bowl last year. Keep an eye on Myers, who kicked for Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles last year when he was New York’s head coach. Myers, who spent 2015-17 in Jacksonville before signing a one-year deal with the Jets where he connected on 33-of-36 field goals (91.7 percent), is an unrestricted free agent.
Matt Bryant, the former Bucs kicker who spent the last decade in Atlanta kicking for new Tampa Bay special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, is another potential free agent signing for the team, as is re-signing Santos. By the way, Armstrong’s Falcons special teams were tied for 19th with 375.5 points last year.
The Bucs could be looking for a new punter with Bryan Anger set to make $3 million this year and coming off two average years. Special teams are as much about field position as it is about field goals.
Tampa Bay had just 15 punts inside the 20 last year, which was tied with New Orleans for the worst in the league. The Bucs were one of 16 teams that didn’t score any points on special teams outside of field goals or extra points. The Patriots, Dolphins, Jets and Titans were tied for the most special teams points in the league with 12.
Conversely, Tampa Bay was one of 16 teams that didn’t have any points allowed, either. That’s an improvement over 2017 when the Bucs allowed 18 points with two kick returns for touchdowns and a blocked punt for a touchdown that season.
Gosselin also points out that Tampa Bay was one of 12 teams that didn’t have any blocked kicks in 2018. New England led the way with five blocks last year.
The FABulous Ending
So there is a lot of work that Armstrong needs to do to make the Bucs special teams at least respectable again. It can be done rather quickly, too.
Jets special teams coach Brant Boyer inherited the league’s 31st-ranked special teams unit when he arrived in 2016. The Jets finished 30th in special teams in 2016, 20th in 2017 and improved to first in 2018. New York finished first in five of Gosselin’s categories and in the Top 5 in seven others.
Now it’s Tampa Bay’s turn to turn its special teams around.