Bucs Training Camp Battle: Special Teams

How will Tampa Bay's special teams positions be sorted out in training camp?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' special teams did not gain any big additions this offseason, suggesting few changes from last season. However, the small additions that were made could lead to big changes this season.

The position with the greatest potential for change is the returner spot. Last year, running back T.J. Logan held the kick returner role for nearly the entire season until he went on injured reserve in December. However, he averaged just 20.9 yards per kick return, 31st among players with at least 10 returns last year.

The good news for Logan is the only other player on the roster who returned kicks last season, Dare Ogunbowale, averaged a meager 18.5 yards per return. That may be why Tampa drafted RB Raymond Calais in the seventh round of this year's draft. 

Calais averaged 25.2 yards per return during his career at Louisiana-Lafayette. If he can reproduce those numbers in camp, the coaching staff would no doubt give him a shot during the season.

On the other hand, Logan's 13 returns in 12 games are clear indicator that he allowed a vast majority of kickoffs to be touchbacks, which yielded better yardage than all but 13 kick returners last year. His prudence may be what the Bucs' coaching staff ultimately prefers.

Logan is also the incumbent as punt returner and is the only Buccaneer to have returned more than two punts last season. Here, Logan is a superior option, averaging 9.5 yards per punt return last season—seventh-best in the NFL. A newcomer like Calais would have a very hard time unseating Logan as a punt returner, and consequently, taking his roster spot in general.

Two specialists enter camp without any competition at all—punter Bradley Pinion and long snapper Zach Triner. Pinion is not known for his punt range, averaging just 43.2 yards per punt, fourth-lowest in the NFL. 

However, he is excellent on kickoffs, forcing touchbacks on 90.7 percent of his kicks. Also, $1 million of his 2020 salary is guaranteed this season, making him difficult to cut.

The only other position that offers some kind of competition in camp is at kicker. Last year, the Bucs drafted Matt Gay in the fifth round and the results were mixed at best.

Gay hit 77.1 percent of his field goals and 89.6 percent of his extra points, both putting him in the bottom half of the league. Week 3 against the Giants and the season finale were particularly brutal as Gay's missed kicks that could have easily won the game for Tampa.

Gay's sole competitor is former Carolina Panthers K Elliot Fry, who has never kicked in the NFL. Because of the draft capital invested in Gay, Fry would have to truly stand out in camp to win the Bucs' kicker spot. More than likely, Gay will be the Bucs' kicker this season.