Bucs draft another kicker, more defenders

by Gary Shelton on April 28, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Once again, Jason Licht has the goalposts in front of him. Once again, he is betting he has drafted a player who can get the football between them.

A kicker?


Oh, give Licht credit. This time, he showed a little more restraint, though. This time, he didn't trade up into the second round to draft a kicker who, in hindsight, should not have been taken at all.

Licht -- and the Tampa Bay Bucs -- picked Matt Gay this time, a kicker from Utah who was the first placekicker to be drafted. Gay went in the fifth round, still a bit high for a

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kicker, but if he can end the headaches that have plagued this franchise, it could be worthwhile. But if Gay is anything like Roberto Aguayo, the Bucs' last high draft kicker, there may be trouble ahead.

“He’s a big guy with a big leg and he’s also accurate, so those are a lot of good things that we like about him," Licht said. "He kicks in Utah, but he’s also good at sea level. He can kick it far at sea level as well. We liked him as a person. We think he’s a very confident guy and we’ve exhausted everything we can to try to find a kicker. We’ll continue to, like every other position. We’ve drafted one, signed free agents, UFAs, street free agents, gone to Denmark, so we like this guy. Like I said, like all positions, we will continue to do what we can to try to find the guy we like.

“You’d like to see guys make big kicks in big moments, obviously. The kicker is a very important position. It’s one of the most important positions on the team. Right now we have a coach who really believes in kickers and the importance of it and stresses it. He’s got a kicking background with his son Jake who is a good friend of mine that was a kicker. When Bruce was hired, we had several discussions about what we were going to do to refine the ways that we do things in terms of finding a good kicker. We still like Cairo (Santos). We think Cairo has been really improving so far in the offseason here and we hired (specialist coach) Chris Boniol. Chris is a very good ‘swing doctor’ in terms of his experience as a kicker and also as a coach in college and in the NFL. Keith Armstrong is an awesome special teams coach, as well as Amos Jones. Obviously I’m trying to tell you that we put a lot of stress into the importance of all special teams, but especially kicker.”

Gay was surprised to go so high.

"What I felt was maybe sixth to seventh round, maybe even undrafted," Gay said. "So when I got the call, I looked at the board, and it was a Tampa number. I looked at the board and saw that they were two picks away and was kind of like, ‘No way, not right now.’ I was just kind of shocked and overcome with emotion. It was amazing honestly.”

Gay was just one player the Bucs picked in an attempt to make the 5-11 Bucs better.

-- They picked Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson, who had 23 sacks in three years. It was the fifth straight pick of a defensive player by the Bucs.

-- They picked Gay.

-- They picked Bowling Green receiver Scott Miller in the sixth round.

-- And in the seventh round, they picked Terry Beckner, a defensive tackle from Missouri.

Nelson should compete to being in the playing rotation with Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib.

“With Anthony, we had him ranked pretty high on our board," Licht said. :We’ve liked him for a while. (He’s a) big, six-foot-seven, 275-pound guy with long arms and all that stuff and I’ve seen the comparison to Carl (Nassib). No two players are exactly the same, so it’s unfair to do that, but (Nelson is) in (Nassib’s) mold in terms of his body type. He plays really hard, he’s a good athlete, he bends very well. He has good speed to power, he’s got really good instincts. He’s a really, really smart guy and he’s been really well coached by (Iowa Head Coach) Kirk Ferentz. Productive guy – one of the more productive guys in the draft and there’s some versatility to him. We will probably play him a little bit in the outside linebacker role. We’ll put a hand down and sub. We will see if he can rush inside. We’ll have plenty of 4-3 looks in our defense. It’s not just a base 3-4 all the time. So, we like the versatility and you have to be intelligent to do all those things with (Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles), so he fits that mold.”

Said Nelson: "Length is a big tool for me, a long guy with long arms," Nelson said. "It is just knowing how to use it and you have to use it to your advantage. It’s one of my strengths and it’s one of the things that I have to use just consistently getting leverage on guys and just using it the best I can to make plays.”

The Bucs lost two receivers in the off-season. They hope Miller can be a help.

“So Scotty, our scouts did a great job with him," Licht said. "Bowling Green didn’t have a rated prospect going into the season, by any publication. When you go into a school that doesn’t – you try to find a sleeper. Scouts weren’t going through Bowling Green this year because of that. We did. I know some other teams did. You see a productive guy that’s really fast, so you try to keep him under the radar as long as you can. I know we were in contact with him quite often during the spring here, making sure nobody else has talked to him. Then when we found out a couple of teams did and brought him in, we went there and worked him out, had a private workout with him. Our receivers coach (Kevin Garver) went there and spent time with him. We just felt very comfortable in going ahead and drafting him in the sixth round. He’s very fast. To say he’s Adam Humphries, it’s tough to do that right now. He’s got to fight to make the team. He’s different. He’s not as thick, he’s not as big. He’s more of a speed guy. In fact, he’s very, very fast. I think he’s one of the faster guys in the draft. It’s going to be fun to have him out here and see what he can do.”

The Bucs also added defensive tackle help in Beckner.

"Terry went through some adversity there early in his career, with knee injuries, one on each side," Licht said. "Then he’s played, I think, 26 consecutive games now, two years in a row. He’s really tough. Love the kid. Love the grit that he has, where he’s grown up in east St. Louis. It would be tough for me to walk a day in his shoes, some of the things that he’s had to go through. He’s an awesome kid – smart, instinctive player. Like I said, strong, like the way he plays. He’s going to compete I know and he’s got a good chance to make this football team if he plays the way he did at Missouri and the way we evaluated him.”

Licht said he feared that another team would draft Gay.

"I know he had a lot of interest," Licht said. "It’s hard to say if he would have gone in the fifth round; there was another kicker taken. Maybe he went in the sixth, seventh – to me and to us and to Bruce it was a small price to pay to get a kicker. You wouldn’t say the same thing for a receiver, if a receiver didn’t work out a couple years ago that you took in the second round would you be afraid to take a receiver in the fifth round? No. This is a very, very important position.”









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