It’s “next man up” time once again for Buccaneers kick and punt returners.
With his second muffed punt in as many games, the Marcus Thigpen experiment ended after about a month in Tampa Bay. Prior to Thigpen, return responsibilities belonged to Trindon Holliday and Solomon Patton.
Neither of those aforementioned players is in Tampa Bay any longer, but Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said Thigpen’s replacement is already within the walls of One Buc Place. What he refused to state, however, was the identity of that player.
“We wouldn’t have made the move if we didn’t feel comfortable in-house,” Smith said during his press conference Wednesday afternoon. “We’re making progress. But we feel pretty good. Yes, we wouldn’t have made that move if we didn’t feel good in-house with our option that we have. We have a few guys that can do both [kick returns and punt returns], so we have some good options.”
The only active-roster Buccaneer to have any returns this regular season is Leonard Johnson, who took a kick back 18 yards in Washington two weeks ago. The Largo High grad set once set an NCAA Division I single-game record with 319 kickoff return yards as a freshman at Iowa State University.
Running backs Bobby Rainey and Mike James both lined up deep on a few occasions during the preseason.
Rainey brought back three punts against the Miami Dolphins for an average of 10.7 yards and secured two preseason fair catches. He also returned a kick 19 yards.
James returned two kickoffs, one for 15 yards and another for 22.
Ohhhhhhhh the excitement is too much to bear.
James is way to slow to return kick offs. In todays NFL most returners coming out of the end zone are lucky if they make it back to the 20. So I would instruct my returner to stand on the goal line, and let the ball fly over his head 99.9 percent of the time. All things considered, it’s best to take the ball at the 20. As far as punt returner, my best hands guy gets that job. Worst thing that can happen is muffing the catch. I don’t care what he does with it after the catch, as long as he doesn’t fumble. So if your tight end fields punts best on your team, has the best hands, that’s who I’m going with. Return yards are hard to come by, touchdowns are rare.
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