The end of Michael Koenen and Connor Barth?
Over the past few years, Michael Koenen has been one of the highest-paid punters in the NFL. He's also been one of the worst. This is not an exaggeration: he's consistently ranked in the bottom ten of net yards per punt. That's pretty damn awful. His sole saving grace has been the fact that he's an awesome kickoff specialist, consistently ranking toward the top in that area.
That makes it interesting that Connor Barth has been practicing kickoffs, and expects to handle some kickoffs this preseason. Or at least, that's what he told the media yesterday. It's important not to read too much into that, but if Barth is capable of usurping Koenen's one useful role, that doesn't leave much room for such an expensive specialist.
Conversely, this could also signal the end for Connor Barth. It won't take the coaching staff long to see that Barth can't do kickoffs, consistently ranking in the bottom half of the NFL on his kickoffs back when he still handled them. And while it's logical to look at field goals as the most important important job for any kicker, Barth hasn't actually been statistically special in his field goal accuracy -- and there's been significant evidence that there's no such thing to begin with.
If the Bucs say goodbye to Michael Koenen in favor of a better punter, it may not be long before they decide they need a kicker who can actually handle kickoffs, which could signal the end for Barth as well.
Vincent Jackson and an interesting wrinkle
Let's start with two Vines from yesterday's practice.
Why not...one more. @JoshMcCown12 to @VincentTJackson for the score. #BucsTrainingCamp https://t.co/3Z8XdpxENU— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) July 30, 2014
QB @JoshMcCown12 to WR @VincentTJackson for the score...get used to that. #BucsTrainingCamp https://t.co/tDxXmjtgng— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) July 30, 2014
Notice anything interesting? On both touchdowns it seems like Jackson lined up as a slot receiver. That's not all that surprising, given that he's done that before.
(argh it's Josh Freeman close your eyes)
It's interesting to see this trend continue. I don't have the numbers handy, but I though Jackson was pretty efficient in the slot because he could regularly split the safeties and was a mismatch for anyone guarding the middle of the field. With Jeff Tedford moving around all of his receivers, tight ends and running backs, getting Jackson some production in the slot could be a very prominent offensive wrinkle this season.
Update: Twitter user @jonesadamd pointed me to this neat PFF article on slot production, and Vincent Jackson did really well there.