Bucs WR Donteea Dye will be back deep to receive kicks Saturday - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Kenny Bell Experiment on kick return isn’t tossed on the scrap heap just yet, but there will be another Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiver lining up deep to begin Saturday’s preseason game in Jacksonville.
Before heading up to northeast Florida for joint practices with the Jaguars, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said second-year wideout Donteea Dye is next in line to win kick return responsibilities.
“D.D. will be the first guy out there,” Koetter said this week.
Bucs WRs Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye – Photo by: Cliff Welch
Dye ended up back deep to receive two of four kickoffs last Thursday in Philadelphia, including the second opportunity just minutes after Bell coughed up the game’s opening kick. Signed as an undrafted free agent last year out of Division III Heidelberg (Ohio) University, Dye averaged 24.5 yards on his pair of returns. He took the first 24 yards from the 1 to the Bucs 25 and the second 25 yards from the end zone to the Bucs 21.
Tampa Bay’s looking for a more dynamic option in the return game than Bobby Rainey provided last year. Dye’s sample size is too small to determine if he’s a potential upgrade, but the 24.5-yard average is almost identical to Rainey’s season-long mark of 24.7 on 19 attempts. Dye was the only other Buccaneer to bring back a kick in 2015 and those two chances went for pedestrian distances of 19 and 18 yards.
Demonstrated by Bell’s swift removal from return responsibilities in Philly, sure-handed reliability is a necessary train, as well, in the Bucs’ search for Rainey’s replacement on both kicks and punts. Rainey, now trying to win a roster spot with the New York Giants, put the ball on the ground a team-high eight times last year. Seven of those fumbles came on special teams and only one was lost, but that’s far too many drops.
Dye is one of the fastest Bucs in camp and the website nfldraftscout.com provides a range of 40-yard dash times from 4.35 to 4.56 seconds that were recorded leading up to last year’s NFL Draft. Possessing raw speed certainly doesn’t hurt, but lateral quickness, an explosive burst and the vision to spot gaps and hit them while turning on the jets at precisely the right moment separates the good from the great.
Taking advantage of return opportunities will help Dye’s quest to make the team for a second straight year. He was boosted by injuries to other receivers above him last year and ended up playing in 10 games, catching 11 passes for 132 yards and a Week 7 touchdown in Washington. Though he was in for 18 offensive snaps in Philly, Dye received only one target.
One other Buccaneer, fellow receiver Bernard Reedy, got a crack at returning kicks in Philadelphia. The St. Petersburg native went 18 yards early in the fourth quarter, though he also muffed his lone punt return opportunity in the third quarter.
As for punt return, receiver Adam Humphries remains the leader to open the regular season. He didn’t do anything spectacular in Philadelphia, averaging only 8.8 yards on three returns, though he did jump on the loose ball Reedy dropped. Another receiver likely to receive a couple more chances with the punt team is Jonathan Krause. In his second year out of Vanderbilt, Krause took a punt 23 yards late in the fourth quarter but it went in the books as a 21-yard return because of a holding penalty committed by rookie Ryan Smith.
They need to give Ryan Smith reps at returning punts and kicks since he scored TDs in College. He showed up on the projected list for this game, STs needs to give him a shot.
I expect Bell to get one more shot in Saturdays game; probably in the 3rd or 4th qtr. Go Bucs!
I suppose that saying “If you have two QB’s you have no QB’s may be used here. If you have two (or three) returners you have no returners. “Run Michael Run” is a far too distant memory.
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