About Those Special Teams Improvements

May 3rd, 2021

Lost in the euphoria of Tampa Bay’s glorious Super Bowl run were results of a telling annual tradition.

In mid-January, famed Hall of Fame voter/writer Rick Gosselin, a man Bill Belicheat seeks for advice, issued his annual special teams rankings for every NFL team.

In 2018, the Bucs ranked tied for 27th overall. In 2019, they were dead last in the league. Last year, even with a superstar kicker for a change, Tampa Bay ranked tied for 22nd with Atlanta.

The league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 kicking-game categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst. The Patriots compiled 214 points to finish eight better than the runner-up Seattle Seahawks at 222.5. Those 214 points, by the way, were a record-low for the Patriots in these rankings.

Looking at Rounds 4 through 7 of the Bucs’ 2021 draft, it’s clear they were all about special teams. It’s also clear that Bucco Bruce Arians doesn’t think his coaching special team is an issue, as there were no staff changes made.

Quietly, the Bucs let core special teams players Andrew Adams, Ryan Smith and Antony Auclair walk in free agency while Super Bowl returner Jaydon Mickens was put on notice with rookie returner/receiver Jaelon Darden getting drafted after a trade-up in Round 4.

Joe is hoping, like Arians is, that the Bucs’ special teams become special again. Hell, Arians is even talking about first-round-pick OLB Joe Tryon getting into the action. (Hardcore Bucs fans remember what happened when the team foolishly sent top edge rusher Jacqueis Smith to cover a kick in 2016.)

If the Bucs can make a real special-teams leap this season, they might be one of NFL history’s most complete teams.

31 Responses to “About Those Special Teams Improvements”

  1. Darin Says:

    Wow that last sentence. What a difference a year makes.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There is a great deal to like about our last 4 picks…….Speed, toughness….tackling ability…..character……

    The best two quotes:

    “Slow feet don’t eat”

    “Stuard tackles like a rattlesnake”

  3. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    The last time we had a good ST was when Joe Marciano and Rich Bissachia were with us. Since then it’s been not so special. Our ST coaching is not very good, but of course BL’s not gonna admit that just blame the players.

  4. PSL Bob Says:

    I especially like Darden. His speed and shiftiness should yield an extra 5-10 yards of field position each time the Bucs get the ball. He certainly will get his opportunities if the Bucs defense plays the way they did at the end of last season. Lots of 3 and outs for our opponents.

  5. #1bucsfan Says:

    If I’m not mistaken once jac smith played STs and injured his knee he wasn’t the same.

  6. Durango 95 Says:

    It will be interesting to see if any of these guys drafted w/ an eye towards special teams production can actually make the roster w/ so few positions available.

  7. Tampabaybucfan Says:


    We have to replace Ryan Smith, Andrew Adams, Jack Cichy & Anthony Auclair….& Darden will “compete” with Mickens for that slot…

    I think they’ll make it barring injury or some spectacular play/competition from UDFAs.

    The roster slots are there.

  8. Casual Observer Says:

    Special team play (on punts, at least) was the only team weakness last year. Licht addressed that big time in this draft. Punt returner and gunners. Makes Joe’s last sentence worth smiling about. Best O and best D. Now best ST? A “complete team indeed. Nice to contemplate. A fun pre-season to see how this works out for sure.

  9. Bird Says:

    Agree. All 4 last picks were for special teams

    Dealon could be returner. Receiver maybe in year or two.

    Last 3 all selected were listed as great tacklers
    2 linebackers aggressive
    Db has 4.3 speed

    Lets see who can make last few spots as special teams guys

  10. Durango 95 Says:

    Tampabaybucfan Says:
    May 3rd, 2021 at 10:03 am

    We have to replace Ryan Smith, Andrew Adams, Jack Cichy & Anthony Auclair….& Darden will “compete” with Mickens for that slot…

    Fair enough. But as you know the team will look league-wide to fill those spots and will not limit choices to its own draft picks. Should be fun watching how ST competition plays-out during the preseason.

  11. NCFlorIdiot Says:

    I consider myself a hard-core Bucs fan, and I don’t remember Jacquies Smith at all! I looked him up because of this article… He suffered various injuries through out the second half of 2015 then to IR. Then during the first game of 2016 suffered a non-contact ACL tear covering a kick off. He had a really nice stretch at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. I must be phasing out the lost decade!

  12. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    Special team coaches should take some of the blame. It not like we had terrible players on Special teams. A new approach need to take place.

  13. Tampabaybucfan Says:


    I certainly agree….if we can find better, we will…….and we should let what I call “draft ego” get in the way.

    I would have preferred trading later round picks for better picks next year….but we did what we did.

    I do feel that those last four players were picked specifically for ST.

  14. Sport Says:

    Special Teams rankimgs… who cares.

    – Extra points and field goals sure.

    – Nearly every kickoff starts at the 25.

    – Punts are hardly ever returned.

    -The league has been marching the rules back to remove high impact plays.

    If it stays on this trend the only ST required will be extra points and field goals.

    The rosters could be trimmed as well. Which owner doesn’t love a cost cutting initiative?

    In BA I Trust!

  15. lambeau Says:

    The Saints last year allowed 2.3 yards per punt return, the Bucs 10.3–not good.
    I agree the coaching should be called out too.

  16. NCFlorIdiot Says:

    Nevermind, it’s all coming back to me now! lol He was SUPER hot for a little over a year for us, became a fan favorite really fast, but the ACL did him in. I’m a little worried that I forgot about him, geez!

  17. German Buc Says:

    Sport, I remember a certain divisional playoff game in which punts were actually returned in the first quarter. One can argue without that penalty during the second return the game might have gone differently.

  18. Buc4evr Says:

    It’s going to be fun to watch Stuard on Special Teams.

  19. Ben Says:

    The jury is still out on whether these guys can play so I don’t want to sound too negative, but other teams in our division added some decent weapons this offseason. One team that comes to mind is the Falcons. I was banging my fist during the draft for Licht to trade up and take another good corner or slot/ hybrid safety. The reason being is, how the hell do you cover Julio, Ridley , Gage and now and most importantly Pitts. Pitts is going to be an absolute nightmare combined with those other WR. Instead of wasting 2 picks on a solid returner, my thought was why not spend a luxury pick on a guy that would help you defend the future teams in your division. I do like the picks of Tryon, Trask and even Hainsey. But I think we could have done a little better to upgrade the secondary.

  20. Cobraboy Says:

    Interesting draft.

    One needed edge.

    One future QB.

    One OL Swiss Army Knife.

    A ton of ST.

  21. Cobraboy Says:

    @Ben: you “cover” those guys with a bad-a$$ pass rush. I consider the Flavon’s draft a fail because they didn’t”t do squat to toughen their OL.

  22. David Says:

    A corner in a linebacker that have speed to spare and like to tackle… Sounds like gunners.
    A blazing shifty return man, I don’t see Mickens making the team
    All of them with good developmental potential over the next two years.

    And another linebacker who can absolutely stuff the run and is a hitting tackling machine.

    Other than Trask, it was O and D line and all special teams.
    Exactly what they needed to do.

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    Juubus…Falcons, not Flavon’s. WTF? :angry:

  24. Colin in Canada Says:

    I’m starting to think that maybe Ryan Smith wasn’t all that great on special teams. He was on the roster because of his ability on ST but was he actually good?

  25. Colin in Canada Says:

    I think some commenters don’t know what a “gunner” is. Gunners are the WR’s on punt. They a not typically LBs. Stuard will play inside on punt with guys like Minter. I doubt he will be a gunner.

  26. Bruce Blahak Says:

    Wilcox looks like gunner material, speed and tackles.

  27. Winny Testaverde Says:

    “The Bucs special teams can become special again”. I never remember the Bucs special teams being “special”…outside a decent player here and there.

  28. Rod Munch Says:

    Ryan Smith makes everything worse. Everything.

  29. Cainishere Says:

    Well special teams was our only real weakness last year followed by our secondary. We will just have to see folks

  30. Ne+ bucs fan Says:

    The bucs special team return game wasn’t great but it was the bucs special teams defense, (coverage) that really wasn’t great, I really believe they addressed that,,l also agree coaching has a hand in that

  31. Randell Jackson Phares Says:

    I grew up with rattle snakes, they can’t tackle!!!