Bucs’ special-teams units thriving under ex-Bills defensive aide Wannstedt - The Buffalo News
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Bucs’ special-teams units thriving under ex-Bills defensive aide Wannstedt

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are having a solid season on special teams under coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

Seriously, that Dave Wannstedt.

“They’re the best special teams unit we’ll see all year,” Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone said.

Wannstedt, of course, served as the Bills’ defensive coordinator last year under coach Chan Gailey. It was a year to forget. The Bills gave up 5,806 yards and 435 points a season ago, totals which rank among the worst in the single-season franchise record book.

Wannstedt was let go along with the rest of the staff when Gailey was fired. He joined the Buccaneers as special teams coordinator Feb. 1.

“Dave and I go back quite a bit. I worked for Dave when he was the head coach of the Chicago Bears and always have had the utmost respect for him,” Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said. “I think he’s an excellent coach and he’s always been a good friend.

Schiano said Wannstedt was heavily involved in special teams at his previous head-coaching stops.

“When I was with the Bears and then at Pittsburgh he was very involved, he ran the special teams. So I was very comfortable with the technical part of it and I thought all those years as a head coach would really serve him well in the role of special teams coordinator,” Schiano said. “Other than the head coach, the special teams coordinator deals with every one of the players more than any other coach. Dave has been an absolutely great addition to our staff and I’m really happy that he’s here.”

The Buccaneers are sixth in kickoff-return average, at 25.6 yards, and seventh in punt-return average at 11.3 yards. The Bucs’ kickoff coverage unit is allowing just 20.3 yards per return, which is tied for the best number in the NFL.

Wannstedt has a familiar face handling field goals for him. Former Bills kicker Rian Lindell signed with the Bucs just two days after being released by Buffalo during training camp.

“I have no one to blame but me, the way I see it,” Lindell told the Tampa Bay Times this week about his release. “The organization gave me so much. I don’t have any ill will toward anybody. If I would have made my kicks and hit my kickoffs better, things might have been different, but that’s on me.”

Lindell has struggled with the Bucs, hitting just 75 percent of his field goals (18 of 24). He has missed 4 of 9 field-goal tries the past three weeks.

Tony Moeaki’s first practice with the Bills went well, but he’s not expected to play Sunday, according to Marrone.

“Schematically, I don’t want to give anything away, but obviously I don’t think so,” Marrone said.

“I think it would be very difficult to get a player ready to go when you bring him in in the middle of the week.”

Marrone liked what he saw from the former Kansas City tight end in his first practice with the team.

“I thought he did some nice things out there,” the coach said. ”It’s the first day back. He’s been out for a while, but he looked good. Normally you’re going to be a little bit rusty, but he looked very smooth.”

Moeaki was released from the Chiefs’ injured reserve late in October after suffering a fractured shoulder in a preseason game.

“Obviously we brought him in here for a reason and again, the question is – and it’s not a secret – can he get back to the level of play when he was in this league and playing?” Marrone said. “Because when he did play, he was extremely productive.”

Rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin suffered a minor calf injury that forced him to leave Thursday’s practice early. Marrone, however, expects Goodwin to be available Sunday.

Tight end Scott Chandler also missed practice, but it was not injury related. Marrone said Chandler’s wife, Alissa, is expecting a baby.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams returned to practice on a full basis after getting his usual rest day Wednesday.

On the Buccaneers’ side, receiver Vincent Jackson was limited for a second straight day because of a hamstring injury.

“You never know,” Schiano told Tampa reporters about Jackson’s availability. “When you have a leg injury and you’re a receiver, your legs are your life and you’ve got to be able to run. We’ll see when we give it a go, which I don’t know when that will be – if it will be tomorrow, or Saturday or Sunday. Vince is a pro. He’ll know if he can do it or not, so it will be up to him.”

Bucs receiver Chris Owusu was added to the injury report as a limited participant because of a hamstring injury.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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