Anyone But Eric Page?August 13th, 2014
Following the Bucs’ competition at punt returner, Joe gets the distinct impression Lovie Smith doesn’t want Eric Page winning the job. But Lovie’s problem is he must find someone better, and that just hasn’t happened.
Consider that Lovie made it very clear twice that he doesn’t have warm feelings about the position. The first time came in May when the head coach called punt returner “an area of concern.”
That was somewhat surprising, given that Lovie didn’t really express concern about anything at that time of year, and Page was coming off being ranked 13th among NFL punt returners with more than 15 attempts last year.
Then, Lovie told media that he didn’t have a “starting rotation” the position during training camp, despite Lovie saying previously that every position would have a starting rotation.
This week, Lovie said Page, the lead returner on Friday in Jacksonville, missed an opportunity. And yesterday he said Bobby Rainey would get another shot and Rainey swears to him he can do it.
Add that up, it sure smells like Lovie is yearning for a player more versatile than Page to win the gig. Can Rainey do it? The next two preseason games likely will answer that question.
Obviously, punt returner is a key job, especially when you’re a defense-first head coach that expects a smothering defense to stall a lot of opponents’ drives.
Devin Hester is in Atlanta, and Lovie isn’t waving the Eric Page flag. Not yet. Regardless, Joe’s not worried. The Bucs could do much worse than Page. Remember, he’s just 22 years old and is now two years removed from ACL with a season of returning under his belt.