For years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the better teams at returning kicks. After Michael Spurlock broke the curse that lasted for the franchise’s first 32 years, they have been near the top in the league at kick returning. It seemed as though it didn’t matter who they plugged in, the blocking and yards were just there to get.
In 2008, they even had Clifton Smith go to the Pro Bowl as a returner. While he stuck around the team for a few more years, the biggest drop off was when former special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia, took the same job for the San Diego Chargers in 2011.
In 2011, the NFL instituted the new kickoff rule, and while it affected touch backs, the Buccaneers still had a good return team. It was the only thing that didn’t look terrible towards the end of the 2011 season, and that was still with a rotation of players, but mostly Sammie Stroughter having the most success.
This year — minus one kick return in the first preseason game — the return game has been abysmal. They have rotated through a couple of guys, starting with Michael Smith, but he didn’t look too great in the role early in the year.
Arrelious Benn has been the go-to for the last couple of games since returning from his knee injury, but he just isn’t fit to be a kick returner. When it comes to coming out of the end zone or not, his ability to make quick decisions simply isn’t there.
There have been numerous times over the past few weeks where Benn has ran out, even when his lead blocker has turned to him to give the “stay in the end zone” signal. This has led to terrible starting field position anytime our returners have taken it out of the end-zone.
I’m not sure if the answer is on the roster, but there are some guys who I think should be given the chance. Both Tiquan Underwood and Roscoe Parrish have legitimate 4.3 speed, and one of them should be given a shot to take control of the job. Whoever it is, someone needs to step up, because the return game for the Buccaneers is costing them exponentially.