Another Major Gamble By Lovie Smith

August 19th, 2014

lovie smith 0807Goodbye, Eric Page. Thanks for being the 13th-ranked punt returner in the NFL last season, among players with 15 or more returns. Joe’s writing your Bucs eulogy this morning.

Lovie Smith is going with a rookie at punt returner, a rookie who happens to be older than you and a guy who didn’t even return punts in college.

Your replacement is Solomon Patton, undrafted out of the University of Florida. In two good fourth quarter punt returns Saturday against future luggage handlers, bouncers and UPS drivers posing as Miami Dolphins, it seems Lovie found his man.

In fact, the Bucs’ new depth chart for Saturday’s preseason game at Buffalo shows only one surprising change, Patton is listed as the starting punt returner and kick returner.

“He’s really caught the ball well, and he’s got great speed and quickness. So, we’re pretty excited about giving him the opportunity, and I thought he got better and better each punt return. You know, small guy but likes to hit it up in there. Impressive opening game for him,” Lovie said of Patton.

Joe’s all for giving a guy a shot, but it’s a gamble to trot a rookie out there as a punt returner, especially a rookie who didn’t return punts in college. And the Bucs sure seem like they’re going to force a lot of punts — and need to win the field position battles.

Yes, Page made his share of bonehead decisions last year (whaddya know, he was 21 when the season started) but there was a lot of good there, as evidenced by his statistics and the fact the Bucs re-signed him this offseason.

Lovie isn’t afraid to engage in high-stakes gambling (see Josh McCown and the guards), but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.

44 Responses to “Another Major Gamble By Lovie Smith”

  1. SAMCRO Says:

    Well he’s the boss, and his tenure is connected to the players he chooses to keep. All be it for us to decide who he must use and keep when it’s not our job on the line. We as fans, have to trust that our team is in good hands, and all the decisions L&L make are for the good of the team going forward even if we don’t agree.

  2. DHutch Says:

    He did look good. His potential is much higher than Page’s. I like is speed also. It is a gamble, but I trust Lovie.

  3. nate Says:

    If one thing lovie knows is defense and special teams… o line and scoring points thats another matter….

  4. gotbbucs Says:

    I could care less who is returning punts so long as they do a good job. Eric Page has had plenty of oppotunities to prove himself to the new regime, besides that, its a preseason depth chart. This new guy could muff a punt this next game and be handling early morning UPS packages the next day.

  5. Ptwalk Says:

    I would do the same thing if I was in charge. No guts no glory.

  6. Tom Edrington Says:

    Things just keep getting more and more interesting……which is a good thing. The interest died a slow and ugly death last season.

    Saturday will speak volumes, starters going three quarters, a game plan and a team that the Bucs should be better than with the first and second teamers.

    Buffalo is retooling their team and their quarterback? Well, who would you rather have — Josh McCown or E.J. Manuel as your starter?

    Tough question, eh?

  7. flmike Says:

    @Tom Edrington
    Is neither an option?

  8. eric Says:

    glad he took pass on your guy Johnny Football LOL

  9. Buccfan37 Says:

    Josh McCown or E.J. Manuel? uh neither.

  10. meh Says:

    I’m not sure why this is a surprise. He’s been our best returner.

  11. Architek Says:

    Joe you did the same thing with ole switch-blade Williams. Page isn’t all that and if he was he would still be our returner.

    I’m sure Lovie and his staff knows more than media types and fans.

    Joe never said Page was “all that.” But it’s a major gamble to go with a thoroughly inexperienced punt returner. –Joe

  12. Patrickbucs Says:

    He knows about having good returners so I will be happy when he does well this year because we will need any help we can get offensively.

  13. Unislookgoodunislookugly Says:

    It’s preseason and the dude deserves his shot. If Page wanted to keep his job he should have shown more than what he has. At the same time if the new guy doesn’t show something this game I’m sure Page will return as the starter based on his limited experience.

  14. Brian Says:

    I liked the little bit I saw from Patton…now he will have a chance to show what he can do against Buffalo’s starting coverage units…I believe Page is still very much in the mix. Page offers pretty much nothing on offense, at least Patton has some serious wheels.

  15. d-money Says:

    Was Page released?

    Either way, I’d hardly call it a major gamble.

    Page had pretty good stats but his boneheaded mistakes usually negated any positive contributions he made.

  16. robert9 Says:

    i gotta trust lovie here, he’s worked with the best in the game and should know what to look for.

  17. Keith Says:

    Short memories. Page fumbled one punt last year (check Good luck finding a returner who fumbled less, most fumbled more. His numbers were very good as he learned on the fly under a freak show of an angry head coach.

    We’re dumping a 22-year-old Page with experience with just as much speed at Patton.

  18. d-money Says:


    I have to say, this seems like more of you making a mountain out of a molehill again.

    Isn’t this more likely just Lovie wanting to see what a player can do with the first team? Eric Page has had an entire season and 2 preseason games to show what he can do. Now it’s Patton’s turn.

    He obviously showed the coaches enough last week to warrant more playing time but its still the preseason. He may very well end up the opening day kick returner but you yourself said that he’s only returned 2 kicks in the 4th quarter of last weeks game.

    Hardly a major gamble to have a rookie return kicks in an exhibition game.

  19. clafollett Says:

    Doesn’t seem like much of a gamble. Page doesn’t have that much experience and rarely showed bursts of speed like Patton does. I thought Patton hit the hole hard. If he finds a hole, I can see him taking it all the way.

    Not sure how his received skills are though. Haven’t heard his name much in that regard.

  20. Touch_Down_Tampa_Bay Says:

    I like what I saw.

    Lovie has more experience than me so what Lovie says goes.
    Lets see how he does against Buffalo.

    Go Bucs!

  21. Vic Says:

    Would like to see Patton do show himself against real competition. Why wasn’t he good enough to return punts in college? Gator fan?

  22. Teacherman777 Says:

    Solomon ran HARD!

    Thats why lovie is rewarding him.

  23. Prince Says:

    … ran hard against the Dolphins in garbage time.

  24. panhandle buc Says:

    Rob Ninkovich was a long snapper at one point in the NFL and now he is a OLB. Athletes are athletes, patton can learn the punt return game.

  25. Jeffbuc Says:

    Patton looked really good had good burst. He really stood out to me in that game. And ain’t scared to get hit. And like Ian beckles said yesterday he has a lot of dog in him and that is what you need to return kicks. And last year wasn’t page a unproven return man. And it wasn’t his fumbling. It was his fair catching inside the ten yard line last year. And taking kicks out of the end zone not getting back to the 15 yard line.

  26. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I missed the press release where Page was cut…..possible this will happen, but anything is possible.
    Lovie loves speed & Patton is faster….

  27. ToesOnTheLine Says:

    As others have pointed out Lovie has shown he knows how to recognize returners…defense and special teams have been solid during his time as Bears HC. Page will get an opportunity elsewhere (if he got or gets released???)

  28. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    “Goodbye, Eric Page.” – Joe

    Wow, Joe. A bit early for that assumption unless Page was cut (which I have not heard).

    Perhaps Lovie already knows what he has in Page and since Patton hasn’t had many opportunities he is being given a full half to have them?

    Last week the media made a big deal out of the depth chart. I realize they have to try to create interest to get attention, but anyone (including the media) knows these depth charts mean little. All they are is a hint of a possible scenario, but things change day to day, so really they are deceptive (the depth chart I mean; although the media certainly has its days).

    Unless one of theses other guys surprise everyone, Eric Page will be our opening day returner.

  29. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Vic Says
    “Would like to see Patton do show himself against real competition.”

    DING! That is most likely exactly what Lovie is thinking.

  30. Eric Says:

    I hope all these “gambles” don’t mess up that championship team Lovie inherited.

  31. Willie D Says:

    Patton is Eric Page(just unproven). He hasn’t exactly tore it up at practice as a receiver. He doesn’t have blazing speed(he does has quicks). So lovie is replacing Page with a player that is a lot like Page minus the experience. Do you think maybe you could have used an extra guard or a serious QB. I think we all agree Schiano was a good talent scout and I suspect Patton will be a downgrade, sure Patton had a good day against 3rd stringers but Page still was better in practice and was a top 10 all around returner last year. Watch Patriots or Denver scoop him up and give him a real chance.

  32. Eric Says:

    If only we had the great talent scout back, so we could start the season 0-8…………………..

  33. Bobby Says:

    Patton is fearless. Good choice in my opinion. He should do at least as well as Page.

  34. Mike Says:

    I don’t agree with Bonzai much…… Very little actually. But sir you are dead on this time

  35. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    Lovie has had the advantage of seeing him every single day in camp, not just in a single preseason game like fans, so if he says Patton is #1 on the depth chart then by god he’s number effing one on the depth chart. Period.

  36. Willie D Says:

    the coach was fired after 1.5 seasons any coach needs at least 3 years. The truth is the front office is a little scatter brained.

  37. Orca Says:

    Apparently, Joe has a new mancrush on Eric Page.

  38. DB55 Says:

    He only had 2 punt returns but he handled 7 kicks in all including kickoffs.

    3rd quarter
    Ko return for 26 yrd, 32 yr (took it outfrom 10 yrds deep), 33yrs (again from 10 yrds deep)

    The kid wants to eat steak not chicken.

  39. Willie D Says:

    Orca, Joe is moving in on my territory?

  40. buc4lyfe Says:

    Uuum yea Joe your going a little overboard with your eulogy of a player that offers nothing more than average kick return ability because that’s what 15th is right? Never mentioned how pedestrian Glennon looks against future dump truck drivers in his second seasons lol but thanks whatever allows me to take shots at the worst qb of the future in the nfl

  41. Kevin#1 Says:

    Higher ceiling than page. Lovie knows he has at LEAST three years to fix this team. He’s not going o panic and go with the best decision now. He is looking for the best long term answers where he can afford to. If he makes the call I trust it.

  42. Stanglassman Says:

    Lovie was dead set on finding someone anyone to replace Page. I’m not sure what he did to upset the coaches but he didn’t get much of a chance. I feel bad for the guy who did a pretty good job last year, I hope Patton does well but I’m with Joe on this one.

  43. ToesOnTheLine Says:

    @ Kevin#1
    “Lovie knows he has at LEAST three years to fix this team.”

    I wouldn’t bet on that. Last coach got 2 years and Lovie inherited a far more talented and more disciplined team from Schiano than the mess Morris left behind after his termination. I’m guessing if Lovie doesn’t have a winning season by year two his seat will be VERY hot if given a 3rd year. I believe the Glazers brought Lovie in not only to placate the fanbase with a trip down Father Dungy nostalgia lane but to win NOW (not to rebuild and win 3 or 4 years down the road).

  44. Steve Graves Says:

    Well at least it’s not Demps…..last year his effort was awful..and I’ve seen nothing so far this year to jump for joy about. Patton at least looks like he is fearless so far. Still a long way to go until game 1 folks. I’m more concerned about the “Offensive” line. Oh, I meant offense….what am I thinking.