2014 Bucs Camp Preview: Special Teams
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ALL EYES ON: K Connor Barth
After suffering an unfortunate Achilles injury in his charity basketball game that kept him out all of 2013, Connor Barth is back. The Bucs welcome his return after the inconsistent play of long time veteran Rian Lindell last season. Before his injury, Barth was one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, compiling a field goal percentages above 80% including making 26-of-28 (92.9%) FGs in 2011. But what separates the UNC grad from the pack is his accuracy from 50 yards and beyond. He hasn’t kicked under 50% from 50+ in a season yet. Tampa Bay is hoping Barth can replicate that production.
The biggest unknown entering training camp is who will return punts and kicks. At one point in their mandatory mini-camp, the Buccaneers had as many as eight players taking reps (WR Eric Page, WR Skye Dawson, RB Mike James, RB Jeff Demps, RB Charles Sims, RB Bobby Rainey, WR Chris Owusu, and WR Solomon Patton). The dominoes will start to fall once the depth positions have been taken at running back and wide receiver. With how many combinations Jeff Tedford will use in his offense, the candidates who get less time will have more opportunities in the return game. Don’t be surprised we see a rotation here as well.
CAMP OBJECTIVE: Fire & Desire
Buccaneers special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea’s philosophy will be based on physical and mental toughness, plus giving max effort until the whistle blows. Special teams is the most overlooked element of football. It has potential for game changing plays, and the Bucs will need game changers in this area. And with veteran leaders Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson now elsewhere, Tampa Bay will need new leaders to step in and fill the void.