Special Teams Mysteries AboundMay 15th, 2014
The Bucs lost key components of their solid 2013 special teams units. Adam Hayward, Erik Lorig, Dekoda Watson, Brian Leonard and more are gone.
Ask former Bucs special teams coach Dave Wannstedt to pick a special teams standout from last year, and count on Wannstedt singing the praises of wide receiver Russell Shepard.
Shepard remains on the Bucs’ roster, but it sure seems like he’ll have a tough time making the team with Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Robert Herron, Louis Murphy and Eric Page in town, among other receivers.
The point is the Bucs have massive question marks on special teams, especially after a draft that hardly loaded up on potential special teams.
Joe realizes hardcore Bucs fans spend down time making detailed final 53-man roster projections this time of year (zzzzzzz!).
For those who do engage in the practice, keep in mind so much of the decisions are all about special teams. Can Da’Quan Bowers contribute on special teams more than an athletic Steven Means? That’s a sample question to ask yourself. Also, you can best believe special teams is a huge reason cornerback Danny Gorrer, who went through two surgeries with the Bucs last season, was pounced on in free agency by Lovie Smith. Gorrer is a strong special teamer when healthy.
Let’s flashback to some of Joe’s minicamp notes last month:
Special teams coach Kevin O’Dea, as special team coaches are known to do, really brought a ton of energy today. He spent a lot of time on the “off returner” role, aka the guy right in front of the designated kick returner.
Jeff Demps and Bobby Rainey primarily worked there. “Run like you got the ball in your hands,” O’Dea barked a few times. Eventually, Demps was praised for getting it right. Eric Page and Skye Dawson worked mostly as the actual kick returners.
O’Dea also was testing guy’s knowledge and versatility. At one point, for example, he yelled to WR Lavelle Hawkins to step in to that “off returner” role. “We just had an injury, Hawk. You’re in. Know you’re role.” O’Dea also put in his share of hips instruction for the blockers on the kick return team. Great stuff for football junkies.
The more Joe thinks about the Bucs’ special teams situation, the more Joe’s confident the Bucs will be deep in special teams study during the rookie minicamp that starts tomorrow. Those “three or four” future Bucs Lovie referenced are going to have to be versatile.