Special Teams Mysteries Abound

May 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.

16 Responses to “Special Teams Mysteries Abound”

  1. BigMacAttack Says:

    Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    No, but the regime says it expects impatience and instant gratification. –Joe

  2. Red86 Says:

    I think the undrafted players and tryout will fill most of the special team role. With a few players we already have. How good they will be is a whole different story.

  3. OAR Says:

    Nope….but a decent pillow fort can be!

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Maybe we can bring back Myron….or…..just score so much it doesn’t matter as much……would love to have twice as many punt returns and kickoffs…..

  5. pick6 Says:

    kinda surprised that hayward and watson were allowed to move on without much effort from the bucs. between them i think they had most of the splash plays on special teams the last couple seasons. lovie’s ST credentials are almost as solid as his defensive ones, though, and i’m sure he has a plan he is comfortable with

  6. Rrsrq Says:

    The competition for return man for both punts and kick offs will be intriguing

  7. BigMacAttack Says:

    OAR, that sounds good. I’ll grab some Brews and head your way.

  8. BigMacAttack Says:

    Or we can just meet at Joe’s office. I’ll double my order.

  9. Bradentuckey Buc Says:

    Mike Glennon has “Blazing Speed” and will be returning kicks by week 1…You heard it here first!!

  10. OAR Says:

    Cool. I’m sure Joe with all the long hard hours he puts in has got plenty of pillows. Although, I’m sure we can’t use the ones with Johnny ‘Beer Bong’ on them.

  11. brandonbucfan Says:

    Sometimes the people that respond to your notes amaze and surprise me. I know you, Joe, take this very seriously, but the recent comments are jokes that a serious fan won’t take lightly. I do believe we have a serious problem now with special. PR t
    his morning put out their “initial” 53 man roster. Granted, it is what it is. But, there isn’t one guy on there that is a return man, much less enough of the “key” guys that have two or three years experience on ST to make a decent unit. Question..in our desire to purge and add new people have we destroyed 1/3 of a game…Special teams?

  12. ToesOnTheLine Says:

    No, but the regime says it expects impatience and instant gratification. –Joe

    This is good news as those are two of my best character flaws 🙂

  13. BigMacAttack Says:

    I could care less how they do it, just do it. I totally understand Joe and every other fan’s impatience to have all the answers. I also appreciate the continuous flow of Bucs info on this site. It is second to none IMO. But I really have a lot of faith in Lovie at this point and believe he will not leave stones unturned. If I have learned anything about the Bucs since Chuckles was axed, it’s that patience is important. If you don’t have patience you will clearly drive yourself up a wall and develop ulcers on top of acid reflex, on top of migraines followed by insomnia. Have a cold one, relax and let the cards fall where they may, because we are not in control. We have no say and when it’s time to see their cards, they will lay them on the table.

  14. Brandon Says:

    I don’t recall Louis Murphy contributing much on special teams in his career. If a guy isn’t not one of the top 2-3 WRs or top RB, he has to play special teams. Murphy seems unlikely to make the squad at this point.

    Skye Dawson, Russell Shepherd, Eric Page, and presumably Robert Herron WILL play special teams. That gives them a leg up already on Murphy. I’m not sure Dawson offers much in terms of potential as a receiver, while Shepherd is extremely raw but is a gunner unlike Page who is a returner.

    I think at this point it looks like V. Jackson, M. Evans, R. Herron, E. Page, and R. Shepherd for the final roster. Page and Herron for their return ability, Shepherd for kick and punt coverage.

  15. owlykat Says:

    We have more speedsters on this team now than ever before, and a great ST Coach to build them into an effective unit. We will be fine! Even have our place kicker back.

  16. PRBucFan Says:

    Your right BMA

    Football teams are no exception Joe 😉