Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Make Quick Pivot in Return Game

The broken thumb suffered by T.J. Logan in practice on Friday means the Bucs will have new players returning punts and kickoffs for the final quarter of the season

Like a good punt returner, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a quick change of direction in their return game on Friday.

That change was necessitated by the broken thumb that return man T.J. Logan suffered while catching punts in the final practice of the week. At the conclusion of practice, Head Coach Bruce Arians didn't hesitate to name his replacements for Logan on both punts and kickoffs.

"Justin Watson and Sean Murphy-Bunting [on punt returns]…Justin will take over," said Arians. "Dare [Ogunbowale] will take over kickoff return."

Logan has 13 of the Bucs' 14 kickoff returns this year after arriving as a waiver claim from Arizona just before the start of the regular season, averaging 20.8 yards per runback with a long of 39. He also assumed the punt return duties after the release of Bobo Wilson in Week Seven and averaged 9.5 yards on 13 chances.

At one point, the Buccaneers' punt return depth chart was Wilson, rookie wide receiver Scotty Miller and Vernon Hargreaves, but Hargreaves has also since been waived and Miller is about to miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Watson has been working as the second-string punt returner since Miller also got hurt on the practice field, so he won't be walking into his new job cold.

Watson has not yet returned a punt in the NFL but he's been a valuable contributor on special teams, leading the team with six kick-coverage stops as a rookie in 2018 and adding another four this year. Watson has logged 239 snaps on special teams this season, second only to Ogunbowale's 241.

Ogunbowale gets a new job, too, though he did also hold down the Bucs' kickoff return job for three weeks last season. He returned seven kickoffs, all in the Week 11 game against the New York Giants, for 137 yards. Ogunbowale also has the only kickoff return this season not taken by Logan, as he contributed a 19-yard runback at New Orleans in Week Five.

The Buccaneers will also be without starting right guard Alex Cappa, who has been ruled out of Sunday's game due to an elbow injury suffered last Sunday in Jacksonville. As was the case when Cappa missed two midseason games with a forearm injury, he will be replaced in the starting lineup by versatile veteran Earl Watford.

Second-year cornerback M.J. Stewart could be back in the mix on defense after missing the last three games with a knee injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game on Friday's injury report. Arians said Stewart is best used at the nickel corner position. Most recently, the Buccaneers have been playing Murphy-Bunting in the slot in nickel packages and bringing Jamel Dean in to play on the outside. However, Dean also left last Sunday's game in Jacksonville and, while he has practiced in full all week he is also considered questionable for the game.

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