By Bucs Nation
Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were horrible in a lot of different ways. One of the ways wasn't very familiar, though: they were really bad in kick and punt returns. The Bucs had been pretty good on special teams for the previous two seasons, and managed to get a number of big returns out of their special teams unit. Last year, though, that all dried up. One reason for that was the main kick and punt returner Preston Parker, who got the job after Sammie Stroughter injured himself in the first game of the season. Stroughter only returned late in the year to take over a few kick returns.
Preston Parker, meanwhile, averaged 22 yards per kick return and 9.1 per punt return, ranking 30th and 21st in the NFL respectively. A number of fumbles and muffs marred his game as well, most notably during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The result was the single worst punt return unit in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders' numbers.
Obviously, the Buccaneers must improve this unit, and the first question they must answer is simple: who will be the Bucs' main return man? Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky talked about that, and mentioned a few names: Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter, Mike Williams and Michael Smith. The first two names have experience as returners in the NFL, but Williams and Smith do not. In fact, Williams and Smith seem to have combined for a whopping 5 kick returns in college and 0 punt returns, if I can trust College Football Reference. But both players do have some attributes that could make them successful.
One name not in the mix who should be mentioned? Arrelious Benn. The third-year receiver was a fairly impressive and oft-used return man in college.
So, who do you think should earn the primary return job?