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.