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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Special Teams something to build on for 2017

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First-year coordinator Nate Kaczor probably doesn’t get enough credit for the tremendous job he did in turning around the Buccaneers special teams units last year.

If you didn’t notice, the Bucs had some of the best all-around special teams units in the league in 2016, ranking in the top 10 in kickoff returns allowed; opponent punt return average and punts downed inside the 20.

The only thing the Bucs didn’t do well in the special teams phase, of course, was kick field goals consistently. They were strong just about everywhere else, though, stronger than any team in the NFC South, according to one metric.

Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin, one of the most respected scribes covering the NFL, compiles an NFL special teams ranking each season and this year’s ranking is quite favorable to the Bucs.

In his points-based system in which teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned one point for being the best in a category and 32 for being the worst and so on Tampa Bay rated a respectable 12th overall.

That put them just one spot behind Dallas, two ahead of Atlanta and in a mix of teams that reached the playoffs this year such as Seattle, Miami and New England.

The biggest contributors to the Bucs special teams success this year were of course punter Bryan Anger, a Pro-Bowl alternate, and gunners Russell Shepard and Josh Robinson.

Anger tied for third in the league with 37 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and thanks largely to the play of Shepard and Robison the Bucs limited opponents to just 5.3 yards per return, fourth best in the league.

The Bucs also produced a respectable 9.2-yard per return punt average of their own, 12th best in the league and limited opponents to 583 kick return yards, 10th best in the NFL.

The problem area for the Bucs as we all know was field goals, the Bucs ranking last in the league in that area, where rookie Roberto Aguayo was good on just 22 of 31 attempts (71-percent).

As for the other Florida-based teams, Miami ranked eighth overall, just half a point behind New England, Jacksonville ranked 22nd, several points behind Chicago.

Looks like that’s yet another area where Jags coach Doug Marrone and new football operations boss Tom Coughlin have some work to do. Bet they’re wishing now that the team had re-signed Anger last summer when they had the chance.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs pass rusher Barrett named NFC Defensive Player of Week

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Off their impressive Road win last Thursday night against division rival Carolina, the Buccaneers also got an individual accolades on Wednesday morning.

That’s when the NFL announced that edge pass-rusher Shaq Barrett had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week:

Barrett had a tremendous game, or should we say third quarter specificall,  in the win over the Panthers. This as, he registered not one, but three quarterback sacks, in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 20 – 14 victory.

Barrett became the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in their Super Bowl season of 2002 to have that many sacks in a single 15 minute period. He’s also the first Bucs pass rusher to get three sacks in a single game since the 2015 season.

Barrett also had a sack in Tampa Bay’s week one loss against San Francisco and obviously, leads them now with four of them through the first two games. The four sacks in two games has matched the best start in sacking the QB in Buccaneers franchise history.

The last time the Bucs had a defensive player win player of the week honors, was also 2015. That’s when linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each took home the honor in separate weeks.

The six year veteran came to Tampa Bay after having spent his first five years with the Denver Broncos. This included his being part of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning season of 2014.

Barrett had 14 career sacks coming into this season and is already thriving early in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs are pairing him on the outside with Carl Nassib in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.

He is also the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, where he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season and was eventually signed with Denver, as an undrafted free agent.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians rightfully fearing Giants RB Saquon Barkley

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of the Giants starting rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows the real key for New York resides deeper in their backfield.

That’s where second-year running back Saquon Barkley is expected to be busy, especially early in the game. And, he may very well be the reason or not that New York has a chance to get their first win of the season Sunday in Tampa.

Arians made it clear right away at his Tuesday press conference that Barkley will be a challenge for a Buccaneer defense that has been stingy so far this year against the run:

“He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” Arians said.  “He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”

The Bucs held the 49ers in check for just 77 yards on the ground in their opening loss two weekends ago, but then, played even better against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers running attack last Thursday night. They held McCaffrey to only 37 yards on 16 carries, including the biggest moment of the game. That’s when DB Vernon Hargreaves stopped McCaffrey one-on-one from getting the one needed yard to keep Carolina’s final drive alive and hopes of winning the game.

As for Barkley, he comes off a tremendous debut season with a 1,300 yards rushing and another 700 receiving. He’s arguably the best dual threat back in football.

And, with a 120 yd rush game on just 11 carries in the opening week game at Dallas, Barkley followed up with another 100 yard game last week against Buffalo registering 107 yards on 18 carries. Still, the Giants dropped both games and at 0- 2 and have decided to shake it up at QB.

Giants second-year coach Pat Shurmur will try to establish the run early on in the game to take the pressure off his rookie quarterback making his debut.

The Bucs know that as well and looked at stuff to run with Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and former first-round pick Vita Vea. Both guys have been big keys in clogging up the middle and helping the Buccaneers stop the 49er and Panther backs.

And if they do so Sunday at home, it will be a big key for a second straight win.

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