The duo of Connor Barth and Michael Koenen has given the Buccaneers’ coaching staff reason to be confident in virtually every aspect of the kicking game, from field goals to kickoffs to coffin-corner punts. Now Roscoe Parrish is doing the same for the Bucs’ return game.
Since the start of the preseason, the Bucs have had near constant turnover in the punt return position, from Preston Parker to Sammie Stroughter to Jordan Shipley and now to Parrish. Parker and Shipley both had ball-security issues and are no longer with the team, while Stroughter had to go to injured reserve with a foot injury. Parrish arrived on September 25, and while he’s only played one game as a Buccaneer so far, he already seems to have settled the team’s upheaval in the return game.
Against Washington, Parrish fielded six punts, fair-catching two of them. He added four returns for 36 yards, and while those aren’t overwhelming numbers by any means, they were the best the team has had in a single game this year. Most importantly, by far, Parrish caught the ball smoothly and without incident. That was particularly helpful on one short, 33-yard punt in the fourth quarter on which he had to sprint about 20 yards forward to catch the ball.
Parrish, of course, has the advantage of experience, having held the punt return job in Buffalo for most of the last seven years. That experience was obviously desired by the Buccaneers when they looked around on the waiver wire for available return men.
“I know we do kind of have the revolving door there right now, but Roscoe Parrish is doing a great job back there so far,” said Wide Receivers Coach P.J. Fleck. “I’m really proud of his progress.”
Bob Ligashesky is the Buccaneers’ special teams coordinator, but Fleck was asked to weigh in on Parrish’s debut because he takes on a specific task during return drills. Head Coach Greg Schiano says Fleck is one of the best he’s seen in action in coaching return men on how to field punts. Fleck employs a lot of specific drills – one day, the return men may have to catch punts with one hand, the next day they’ll have giant exercise balls thrown at them – to help the Bucs’ return men get comfortable in the job.
“It sounds like a very simple task until someone goes back there and does it,” said Fleck. “And even the experience at the college level, if you haven’t done it yet in the pros, is completely different. The hang time is a lot more, the balls are higher, the knuckleballs don’t move. It is very tough. We have specific drills you work on to build confidence when you’re back there, so when they get out there, when they do really have both hands to catch the ball without different things in their way – except for people running at them – they have the confidence to catch them.”