Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs hope to score big returns

Last year's primary returner, Eric Page, has fielded punts. [DANIEL WALLACE   |   Times
]

Last year's primary returner, Eric Page, has fielded punts. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times ]

TAMPA — The Bucs haven't returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown since November 2010 — only the Redskins have gone longer without one among the 32 NFL teams — and Kevin O'Dea's job is to change that this season.

The Bucs special-teams coordinator is well-equipped to help on returns. As the Chiefs assistant special-teams coach last season, he saw Kansas City return four kicks (two punts and two kickoffs) for scores, and he works to simplify the art of the return for his players.

"Really, what we're teaching is geometry and physics, but it's in phys ed," O'Dea said Tuesday. "They have to understand their angles, they have to understand their pad level, how we want it done, where the hands have to go and where they can't go. We don't want a good return brought back. We've got to get this thing rolling."

O'Dea wouldn't name any specific returners who have stood out in two weeks of practices — last year's primary returner, Eric Page, has fielded punts, as has WR Skye Dawson and rookie Solomon Patton, among others. He said the noncontact nature of drills thus far has limited the insights coaches can get about which players are ready to handle the collisions that come with returns.

"Right now, all I can tell is they're catching the ball, moving forward, they have good hands and they're being consistent," O'Dea said. "As far as the toughness part of it, as far as making people miss, I can't tell about that. … Until we get in pads, we really don't know those things."

The NFC South as a division hasn't had big plays on returns — Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina all have gone two full seasons without a touchdown on a kickoff or punt return. By comparison, 23 of the 28 teams in the rest of the NFL have at least one score in that span.

MCCOWN PRAISE: Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford wasn't the only coach glowing this week about new QB Josh McCown. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo said the 11-year veteran has already made a huge impression with the team. Arroyo praised McCown's abilities and the extra time he's spent in meeting rooms and watching film.

"He's done a great job of grabbing the group, grabbing the offense, from the O-line to the backs to the wide receivers and independently working with them," Arroyo said. "The core traits that you're looking for in a pro, he depicts exactly to a tee. He is what I think we thought he was, and that's awesome."

DOES SIZE MATTER? After Seattle won the Super Bowl thanks to a tall secondary, the thought of 6-foot cornerbacks has become an NFL trend. The Bucs have four of them, including last year's No. 43 pick, Johnthan Banks, although cornerbacks coach Gill Byrd said size isn't what matters most.

"Whether it's a big corner, short corner, you're as valuable as the plays you make," Byrd said. "The size isn't the issue. It's going out and not just being active but being productive. And that's the difference."

Byrd said one of those 6-foot cornerbacks, veteran Danny Gorrer, has been productive, lining up on the outside, against slot receivers and at nickel.

"His versatility shines when he's out there on the field," Byrd said.

Bucs hope to score big returns 06/04/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 8:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  2. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    Just when RHP Jake Odorizzi thought he was trending in the right direction after pitching out of the stretch during his previous start, he has another tough outing. He retired only 12 batters, which is never good, especially with LHP Blake Snell pitching tonight against the Orioles.

  3. Rays vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. Monday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Orioles

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Florida; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  4. Gruesome details of Rangers' sweep of Rays

    The Heater

    Lost weekend

    How the Rays managed to blow two-run leads late in three straight losses to the Rangers:

    FRIDAY

  5. Yes, again: Rays blow late two-run lead, get swept by Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As weekends go, this was a bad one for the Rays. In a word: brutal.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, foreground, reacts after giving up a home run to Texas Rangers' Carlos Gomez during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 23, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC116