Struggles At Punt Returner

October 31st, 2023

So where does Bucs punt returner Deven Thompkins rank among his full-time colleagues?

Cover your eyes.

this season. Thompkins is in that group and he ranks 27th in the league with a 5.1 yards-per-return average.

Years ago, Joe remembers having a chat with former Bucs receiver/returner Adam Humphries. His goal and the goal coaches set for Humphries was 10 yards per punt return. He averaged 9.9 yards per return in 2016, his rookie season.

Humphries did little punt returning the following season but picked it up again in 2018, when he averaged 6.6 yards per return and fans were on him for having no juice in that role.

Joe brings up Thompkins’ return struggles today because Joe expects the Texans to punt often on Sunday when they face the Bucs.

Hopefully, Thompkins can bust out of his slump and spark the Tampa Bay offense with a strong return or two.

(For those wondering, former Bucs returner/receiver Jaelon Darden has 4 punt returns for the Browns this season for a total of 39 yards.)

30 Responses to “Struggles At Punt Returner”

  1. Weebs10 Says:

    This whole coaching staff needs to go.

  2. NYbucsfan Says:


    Trouble at punt returning trouble on third down defense trouble on offense trouble and running game trouble at quarterback. When are you going to call it like it is and just blame it on the coaching?

  3. Popcorn Mike Says:

    Special team haven’t been decent in years. Even under Arians. Hope we can get it going

  4. NYbucsfan Says:


    Trouble at punt returning third down defense trouble offensive troubles running back troubles quarterback troubles. When are you going to tell it like it is and blame it on the stinking coaching?

  5. Mike Johnson Says:

    We actually have a chance at beating the Texans if..we play hard.

  6. Popcorn Mike Says:

    😊😊 even on special teams, when we do get a big play it’s usually call back by penalties

  7. Winny Testaverde Says:

    When your punt returner/3rd receiver is Pop Warner in size if not skill…don’t be surprised if your special teams and 3rd down offense is awful.

  8. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    NOt just there, the ST coordinator is the worst in the NFL, the bucs have 2 of the worst OL coaches and THE worst DB coach, so basically add the ST coach to this horrible coaching staff…..and the OC it appears is clueless

  9. Popcorn Mike Says:

    You know Bucs fans, after listening to J Licht today on the NFL channel, I think some things are about to changed. Maybe a smoke screen but he sounded sincere

  10. Rod Munch Says:

    The Bucs have played 7 games, and he’s had 9 punt returns. If he gets a decent return on the 10th return, suddenly he’s in the top 10. It’s a very small sample size.

    Also when you have a dullard head coach like Todd Bowles who thinks the most important trait in a QB is not turning the ball over – as opposed to scoring points – what do you think Bowles is telling his special teams coach? I know what – that first and foremost protect the ball, do not turn it over at all costs, which in turn means you’re not going to get aggressive plays – just a bunch of fair catches and ‘safe’ returns.

    The other issue are punters are just a lot better than what they were only a few years ago. Go look at the punting stats, you got a bunch of guys averaging over 50 yards per punt – that’s something that was unheard of only a few years ago. Punters have gotten all roided up or something and kicks are going higher and further than ever.

    Finally it’s worth noting that as people complain about this year in and year out, that punt returners have just gotten worse over the years. I know a couple of years ago everyone here were complaining about Darden saying he must be cut, he shouldn’t be returning, etc – and I looked up the stats and he was like 6th in the NFL in returns. People just haven’t kept up with the times, and teams aren’t putting any resources into the return game as the NFL is trying to kill it because it wants hard hits removed from the game to appeal to women and men who think they’re women.

  11. shorttrooper Says:

    DT is this year’s Jaelon Darden. We always seem to have one of these “He’s really small but fast and quick, a human joystick!” who simply cannot play at the NFL level. I’m done getting hyped about these preseason hero types. It only took 40 years, but I’m finally on to their lies.

  12. Hodad Says:

    He’s no better at kick off returns. They should give Jarrett, and palmer a shot. Watching Thompkins as a returner is like watching a mouse crossing I-4 at rush hour.

  13. GP Says:

    9 punt returns in 7 games?
    Yes, small sample size.
    Also an indictment of our defense and their inability to get off the field on third downs.

  14. BucsFanSince76 Says:

    Hey these are Jason Lichts’ handpicked stars-Thanks Jason Licht.

  15. Onetrickpony Says:

    Punt returner.
    We have one of them ?

  16. Usfbuc Says:

    Funny news about Jaelon Darden he is averaging 9.8 per return

  17. Mike C Says:

    Can’t force a punt, if you can’t get off the field on 3rd down

  18. fred Says:

    Every season we get a media darling to root for…he is teh one this year. He is undersized and tries hard, but gets tackled by a blade of grass. He made a great diving TD catch which was great, but he is not going to be a significant contributor. Just too small…

  19. Buc booote Says:

    How u fire Byron but don’t fire the special teams coach?? Man has had a job here for 5 years and he still can’t coach these dudes how to block?? Fire everybody the Gm, The coach, the defensive coordinator, and all the people that work with the players on the field

  20. DJB Says:

    Thompkins has the heart of a Lion, but as others have commented, he is just too darned small, the bigger defenders (which is all of them) just swat him down like a fly. He has had a fair shot at returning kicks, but let’s see what Palmer can do.

  21. Beej Says:

    Does anybody remember Danny Reece? What a stud. The guy once had 70 punt returns in a season, did not call for a fair catch once. (Had a very poor average per return, of course)

  22. unbelievable Says:

    Special teams sucking under Keith Armstrong? But how could that be.

    Armstrong has been responsible for… :: checks notes ::.. garbage special teams his entire tenure! Nothing new here.

  23. Crickett Baker Says:

    Darden must have had some coach who could teach him if he is returning almost 10 yards. We couldn’t help him. I don’t care if he was 6th best while here, because at least 4 above him must have been pretty bad, too. He is one of the only players that I was really glad when he got cut.

  24. BucsBeBack (Artist formally known as: BringBucsBack) Says:

    He can start by running upfield.

  25. CAbucsfan Says:

    Time to give #1 White a shot at returns, can’t he much worse than #83

  26. Glass Half Full Guy Says:

    Darden always got a bad rap from Bucs fans. In 2022 he averaged 10.6 yards per return and his rookie year in 2021 he averaged 7.5.

    Not mind-blowing numbers but not bottom of the barrel stuff. Plus he never lost a fumble on a return which in my opinion is much more important than 3 or 4 extra yards per return.

    Bbbbbbut…”He always looked to run out of bounds!!!” Of course he did. He got the yards that were there and took the ball with him out of bounds instead of getting his puny body blasted and possibly lose the ball deep in our own territory. 9 or 10 yards and hand the ball to the QB on the sideline works for me.

  27. MelvinJunior Says:

    WOW. Then he’s LOST yet another yard, then… It was 6.0 to like, Darden’s 9.4 or something like that, when I brought this up for the first-time, about 2wks ago!!!! I was just wondering why no one had (even noticed or) brought this up yet, after the amount of HEAT that Darden received. He received A LOT, too!!!! I guess, we’ve just had waaaayy too MANY ‘other things’ to worry about LoL.

  28. Rod Munch Says:

    Glass Half Full Guy – I was never that down on Darden, and was pointing out that people were living in the past, that pretty much every punt returner now isn’t doing anything. Punters just punt higher and further than in the past so you get less chances to return the ball, and the NFL wants the play taken out of the game so it keeps changing the rules to make it harder to get good returns.

    With all that said, Thompkins is absolutely a better returner than Darden.

    Thompkins has had 9 returns on the year. If he has a good 10th return, suddenly he’ll be averagining like 9 yards per return and he’ll be near the top of the NFL. It’s a very small sample size.

  29. tbc 1 Says:

    Sure looks like the coaches have told him to fair catch the ball-run forest run should be his motto from the coaches.

  30. larrd Says:

    Palmer looked great on the one punt return I’ve seen him take. North and South and very fast.

    Thompson’s tough but 155 pounds is just too little.