There’s no doubt Tuzar Skipper has had an impressive summer as an outside linebacker. He’s already racked up three sacks, forced fumbles, recovered others, and played sound run defense. What he hasn’t done is play hardly any snaps on special teams, something he even admits baffles him.
That’s what he told reporters as shared by this Chris Adamski tweet.
If you can't figure out why Tuzar Skipper isn't playing special teams, he's with you.
He looked reporters in the eye and said, " I don't know why I am not playing special teams. I. Want. To. Play. Special. Teams. I am not saying, 'I don't wanna play special teams.'"
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 27, 2019
Through three preseason games, Skipper has logged just three snaps there, all on the punt return team and even that seemed to occur only after Anthony Chickillo’s chest injury against the Kansas City Chiefs.
While Skipper isn’t a tremendous athlete and has struggled in space, playing on football’s third unit isn’t new to him. He was on the coverage teams at Toledo and had his 2017 season cut short after tearing his ACL running down a kick against Tulsa, all while still serving as one of the Rockets’ starting outside linebackers.
With injuries at linebacker and Skipper’s impressive play on defense, it’s odd the team has essentially ignored giving him a chance just do at least evaluate if he’s able to do it. Regardless of their reason, the fact he isn’t is the key factor holding him back on making the 53 man roster. Keith Butler has repeatedly discussed the importance of backup linebackers needing to help out there to make their roster spot worth it. Butler discussed Ola Adeniyi’s role on the team last week and the same presumably applies for Skipper.
“A guy who’s not a starter at outside linebacker’s got a play special teams. I think if you would ask him, he would know that he’s got to improve on special teams and stuff like that for him to be a part of our team and making the team.”
Before suffering his knee injury, Adeniyi had been working on special teams and seemingly playing well. Other backup linebackers like Tyler Matakevich, Anthony Chickillo, and Ulysees Gilbert III have all logged extensive time there this summer. Matakevich and Chickillo, of course, are four-phase special teamers. Even Sutton Smith, making his NFL debut, logged 15 snaps there Sunday night against the Tennessee Titans.
All of this implies Skipper will begin the year on the practice squad unless the injuries to Adeniyi, Chickillo, and Bud Dupree are severe enough. Right now, there’s no indication they are, and it’s most likely Skipper will be one of those “tough cuts” after the preseason finale.