A second round kicker. A third round punter. A rookie that averaged 28.8 yards per return in college. A new coordinator. In one fell offseason swoop the Bucs raised their special teams from the dead and turned them into a strength and real arsenal of weapons (that’s right, punters and kickers can be weapons too).
First they invested in punter Bryan Anger, a four year vet and former third round pick from the Jaguars. Anger averages 46.8 yards per punt, second most in league history. Anger should be able to directly assist the Bucs defense by pinning teams deep into their own territory. This move went somewhat under the radar, but the next one most certainly did not.
Roberto Aguayo. By now Bucs fans around the world have heard about this one. Whether you agree or disagree with the pick and what was given up for it *cough pretty much nothing cough*, Aguayo is the most accurate kicker in college football and the closest thing you’ll find to a superstar at his position.The team immediately gained a weapon on kickoffs, and a clutch and reliable kicker who has performed on the biggest stages college football has to offer.
The third component is something that the Bucs have lacked for nearly their entire existence: the return game. It’s still unclear who will end up winning the jobs of punt and kick returner, but fifth round rookie defensive back Ryan Smith will get a shot at both. Smith found success in the return game in college, averaging 28.1 yards per kickoff return. Along with Smith, the Bucs have last years’ redshirt draft pick Kenny Bell set to make his return. Bell returned kicks in college and was likely going to get the job last year before injuring his hamstring. Healthy competition between the two should yield positive results for the Bucs.
The investment in special teams should be comforting to Bucs fans. This might be tough for some people to hear, but there are absolutely going to be games this season and in future seasons where Jameis Winston throws three interceptions and the Bucs offense finds itself stuck in the mud, perhaps literally depending on where they’re playing. Inclement weather and off days from your quarterback are natural parts of the game, and it’s in these conditions that the value of the Bucs investment will pay off. Clutch kicks, booming punts and field flipping returns will be the difference between winning and losing and, down the road, making or missing the playoffs.