Bucs looking at options on special teams
It's probably too early to suggest the Bucs' return game has been terrible this season.
But it hasn't been nearly as electric as it was at times in recent seasons. And with a team that is loaded with special-teams talent, the standards are set pretty high. So, with the Bucs ranked 22nd in kick returns and 21 in punt returns, there's room for improvement.
Which brings us to Micheal Spurlock. The performance of a man who became the first Buccaneer to return a kickoff for a touchdown is going to be scrutinized in the coming weeks, according to coach Raheem Morris.
"We have to get a better spark from our return game," Morris said. "We can get a better spark there from Spurlock. He’s been making some big-time plays for us on offense. It’s probably taking away from his special teams game a little bit."
Spurlock is averaging 20.8 yards per kick return, slightly below his career average of 23.6. But what he hasn't done is break a big one. His longest return in 2010 is 30 yards. Returns of 30 yards or longer are more likely to impact field position in a game, which can have far-reaching implications for the defense and offense.
So, if Spurlock's role on kickoffs is reduced, who would chip in? Morris notes several options, including Sammie Stroughter, Preston Parker and Kareem Huggins. Stroughter, like Spurlock, is a big contributor as a receiver. But his role in the passing game is likely to be reduced in upcoming games as Arrelious Benn's role begins to grow. Benn started the Bengals game at flanker and split the reps there with Stroughter.
Parker wasn't active for the Bengals game but has been on the gameday active list in previous games.
When it comes to covering other team's kicks and punts, Morris had no complaints.
"Our coverage units have been awesome," he said "They’ve played against (the Browns') Josh Cribbs and shut down a couple of dynamic returners and really done some good things. We’re really excited aout what we’ve been able to do there with (Erik) Lorig and Dekoda Watson and Cody Grimm and (Corey) Lynch going down there and covering. It was a like a seventh-round (pick) fest. It was like who was going to be the first one?"