Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Clifton Smith: Redefining Special Teams in Tampa Bay

For the past few seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lacked playmakers. But that all changed when the Bucs promoted undrafted free agent RB Clifton Smith from the practice squad in week 4. With that roster move, the Bucs instantly got themselves the best kick returner in franchise history. Smith ranks 1st in the NFL in both kick return average (29.5) and punt return average (17.6), and has taken one of each to the house. But the most impressive part of Smith's play is the timing. Everytime the Bucs fall behind, Smith is the sparkplug that gets the team going. When the Bucs fell behind the Chiefs 21-3 in the first half, Smith delievered a clutch 90 yard kickoff return TD, which got the Bucs right back into the game. Without that return, the Bucs lose to the Chiefs. And then 2 weeks later, down 17-0 to the Lions, Smith took a punt back 70 yards, which set up 35 unaswered points from the Bucs.

I know that once again, my favorite Bucs will get snubbed from the pro bowl (Barrett Ruud, Jeff Faine, Gaines Adams, and Jermaine Phillips to name a few), but my man Clifton needs to be there. Nicknamed "peanut" by his teamates, Clifton has struggled throughout has career to prove the doubters wrong. Well he is certainly seizing this oppurtunity, and if he continues to electrify the Bucs, he could approach Devin Hester status. After watching the Bucs never return a kickoff for a TD until last season, its great that we finally have a guy who strikes fear in the opposing team.

UPDATE: Scott Reynolds of Pewterreport.com reports that Clifton Smith has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month.

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