Special Focus For Bucs

The Buccaneers want to drastically improve their special teams, but is investing fully in a 6th round rookie the right way to fix it?

The Bucs' return game in 2015 was a joke. They had 5 different players return kicks and 4 different players return punts. For Lovie Smith, after coming from Chicago with Devin Hester, this area of his Bucs squad needs to be fixed.

In the 6th round, the Bucs selected Utah return man Kaelin Clay, whom they hope will help them fix that problem.

“It helps our offense, it helps our defense, it helps our entire team," Bucs GM Jason Licht said of 6th round pick Kaelin Clay. "He’s going to be a fun guy to watch here in training camp and OTAs. I think he’s a guy that you’ve got a chance every time he gets it in his hands.”

For a player who made a name for himself on special teams, it is important to both Clay and the Bucs that this 6th round pick works out.

“It means a lot, especially for me," Clay said after Saturday's practice. "I consider myself a special teams’ guy. I love special teams. I think it is one of the most, if not the most important part of the game - the way you can flip the field and get closer to the end zone, the offense has a greater chance of scoring. For me, it’s more so just coming in and just helping the team. I love special teams. That’s what I’m here for. Also to play receiver, but in order for me to get on the field I’m going to play special teams. I know it’s a need that we need, so I’m just trying to get better every day.”

Clay returned 3 punts and 1 kickoff for touchdowns in 2014. That kind of success has not been seen from the return game for the Bucs in quite some time.

Despite still having Solomon Patton and Robert Herron on the roster, Licht has already handed the return job to Clay.

"Right now, it’s his job to lose, combo punt/kickoff returner," Licht said.

Handing a job to any 6th round pick before a full team workout says a lot about the confidence the Bucs have in Clay. For Clay, he knows this is an opportunity he must run with.

“It says a lot, that they have a lot of confidence in me, but nothing is given," Clay said. "I still have to work for it. My approach to that is I’m going to come out here and work every day. I want to learn from the veterans, see what they do. Also, I want them to tell me what I do wrong, so I can contribute to the team and just help the team become a playoff contender and hopefully we are in California at the end of the season.”

I have zero problem with the Bucs going all in with Clay as their return man. I believe it would benefit the Bucs most to pick a return man and stick with that person. While it is nice for the Bucs to show so much confidence in Clay right now, I hope the same confidence is shown towards him come the regular season.

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