There’s understandably loads of pleasure over the Bucs’ 2023 draft class. Many of those rookies are going to assist the group enhance – some ahead of later. A method that every draft choose will instantly impression the Bucs is on particular groups, notably with the return and protection items for kicks and punts.
Tampa Bay had its struggles protecting punts and kicks final season. The Bucs allowed 374 punt return yards, which was the third-highest within the league.
Whereas kick returns are way more uncommon in as of late, the Bucs nonetheless discovered themselves within the backside 10 of the NFL in kick return yardage allowed with 595 yards on the season and a mean of 25.82 per return.
Choosing the likes of Pittsburgh inside linebacker SirVocea Dennis, Kansas State defensive again Josh Hayes and Nebraska’s speedy huge receiver Trey Palmer on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft might help clear up these issues.
“We acquired youthful, we acquired quicker,” Bucs particular groups coach Keith Armstrong mentioned. “I’m trying on the record and you’ve got linebackers which might be 4.5 and 4.6 [40-yard dash times] – and that’s what you’re searching for. We’ve acquired some good physique varieties – that mid-sized man: linebackers, operating backs, safeties.
“So, you will have some guys in that mid-range physique kind that may match up with a linebacker, can match up with a quick man – as a result of they’ll run.”
Bucs Did Enhance Returning Kicks
In equity to the Bucs they did degree issues out a bit of their return sport. Deven Thompkins, an undrafted free agent final yr, took over midway by means of the season and Tampa Bay ended up second general for many punt return yards, ninth in common yards per return, and in addition landed within the high 10 in kick return yards and common yards per kick return.
That doesn’t imply it’s Thompson’s job this yr, although as Palmer and his 4.3 velocity plus return sport expertise will make for an thrilling competitors.
“You’ve acquired Thompkins on the market proper now,” Armstrong mentioned. “We’ve additionally introduced in a younger man, however I feel Deven will get higher. I feel after [last] yr – that was actually the primary time he’s actually caught punts and kickoffs in consecutive video games. The arrow is pointing up with him. I’m very happy with him. I feel he’ll do a significantly better job this yr.
“He’s (Palmer) going to get an opportunity. A 4.31 [40-yard dash time] and he’s returned in school. He’s really finished it, so will probably be a very good competitors.”
Bucs Rookies Can Assist Create Their Personal Taking part in Time
Getting enjoying time on particular groups is definitely going to assist the Bucs’ draft class in two methods. First, it will get them mandatory NFL expertise. Second, the higher they do, the extra that have will help in creating alternatives for them at their particular person positions on offense or protection.
Dennis, for instance, may very well be the long run alternative for Lavonte David or Devin White. Whereas Hayes has an ideal probability this yr to be Tampa Bay’s beginning nickel defensive again.
Armstrong alluded to the truth that gamers get rewarded in that regard. A few of his finest particular teamers final yr have been from the 2022 draft class with tight ends Cade Otton and Ko Kieft together with cornerback Zyon McCollum. Otton is now the highest tight finish on the roster, whereas Kieft has carved out a task for himself on offense. McCollum remains to be a piece in progress, however the Bucs have massive plans for him and he has a shot at slot nook as effectively.
It could work finest for this yr’s draft class to be taught from Armstrong and use particular groups as a path to have the ability to obtain extra enjoying time on offense or protection finally.
“I get these guys as younger guys,” Armstrong mentioned. “Everyone in that tight finish room needs to play tight finish; everyone within the huge receiver room needs to go catch passes; all of the DBs wish to play defensive again; all of the linebackers wish to play linebacker – any individual has to cowl a kick. That’s my job. What I often do is I’ll alter to you – so that you’re actually telling me coach you.”
“I’ve to one way or the other discover a option to spark you or to get you going…since you wish to be that tailback, and I wish to make it easier to be that nice tailback or that nice receiver, however that is the trail that you simply’re going to should take. You’re not a first-round choose – that’s what I cope with on a regular basis. You’re not a first-round choose, you’re a free agent or a seventh-round choose. So, look right here: if you happen to get good at protecting this kick, guess what’s going to occur? The offense is now going to wish to use you.
So, Zyon McCollum, Cade Otton, Kieft – all three main tacklers have been all rookies final yr. The extra they play, guess what? The extra the offense needs them, the extra the protection needs them. That’s the position that I get put in. Typically I get to teach guys that wish to cowl kicks after which generally I’ve that will help you cowl the kick – that might be a great way of claiming that.”