Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs excel on punt coverage

It's obscure, mind you, but one area in which the Bucs have excelled this season is in limiting opponents' punt returns on special teams.

Entering Sunday's season finale, the Bucs have held opponents to an average of 5.40 yards per punt return — the fifth-lowest average in the league. The franchise record, set in 1992, is 5.32 yards per return.

That's a credit to first-year P Jake Schum, as well as the Bucs' kick coverage units, which have WR Russell Shepard and LB Danny Lansanah tied for the team lead with eight special-teams tackles each.

"I help my guys out and they help me out," Schum said. "They expect me to get good direction and hang it high, and I expect them to protect me, get down there and make a play. It's what they've done all season long. (Andrew DePaola) has been giving me great snaps, and coverage guys like Shep have been flying down the field to make sure the returner doesn't get anywhere."

The Bucs have allowed a total of 135 yards on 25 returns, with a season long of 24 — if they were to hold Carolina to, say, 3 yards on one return Sunday, or 8 yards on two, it'd be enough to give them the team season record.

Schum's first season as an NFL punter has him ranked 30th in the league in average punting and 27th in net punting, but his average of 38.2 net yards also ranks as the third-best season in team history.

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