Beat Writer & Videographer
Rookie wide receiver Arrelious Benn caught his first NFL pass on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Is this a sign that he is likely to earn more playing time? What did Benn say about playing the Z position? Find out this and more.
A 38-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday invoked a lot of questions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – questions that did not need to be addressed a week earlier when the team was unbeaten. One of those inquiries is will the Buccaneers use rookie wide receiver Arrelious Benn more after the bye week?
Benn, one of two second-round picks by the Bucs in 2010, caught his first NFL pass late in the fourth quarter against the Steelers. Then he caught another one. And he added one more on a ball that was tipped in the air by fullback Earnest Graham. Benn finished with three catches for 33 yards (11.0 avg.) and looked like he was ready to see more playing time in the coming weeks.
“When my name is called I just have to be ready and support those guys and play my role,” said Benn.
Up to this point Benn’s role has not been to make an immediate impact on offense like fellow rookie Mike Williams, but rather him learning the offense and the Z (flanker) position. While it is the same position that he played for three seasons at Illinois, Benn says that there is so much more to learn at the pro level.
“It’s pretty much the same role, but the offense is totally different,” said Benn. “I came from a spread offense. The terminology is totally different here. I know it’s a west coast, pro style offense, but coming from Illinois I only had a handful of things I needed to know.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Benn feels like he is more suited for the Z position because of the physicality needed to play in that role. While Williams, the Bucs’ 2010 fourth-round pick, gets more balls thrown his way as the X (split end), Benn and the other flankers have to do some of the thankless tasks that sometimes go unnoticed.
“They ask for a lot as far as blocking and certain routes. I look at it like the
Z is kind of dirty,” said Benn. “You have to come down and block ends and linebackers. The X has got one-on-one coverage on the outside. He is on an island with not a lot of traffic. The Z is like they guy that has to take them hits across the middle of the field, but that is the type of player I am and Mike (Williams) is an X kind of receiver. That is why we are both here and playing the positions that we are at.”
Right now there is already someone manning Benn’s position in the starting lineup. That guy is second year pro Sammie Stroughter. As a rookie last season Stroughter caught 31 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown working primarily from the slot. Now that he is starting on the outside, Stroughter’s production has taken a nosedive. Through three games, the 2009 seventh-round pick has only six receptions for 49 yards. Benn almost matched those totals on one drive against the Steelers.
“Now with Rejus (Benn) on the come, you have to play him a little bit,” said Morris. “Yesterday we had Preston Parker up and some of those guys that will be able to go in a give Sammie some spells so he can be more effective in the zebra package, which we know he thrives in and makes his most production.”
During his press conference today, head coach Raheem Morris said that he is not thinking of making changes to the starting lineup at this time, but wants to get Benn on the field more to contribute.
“I don’t know if you have to make changes, wholesale changes with some of those guys,” said Morris. “I like my team and where they are and where they are going and I like what we have going on. But would I like to increase Benn’s role? Yes. Yesterday he probably got 13 or so snaps. He can certainly help us some more and give us some more energy because he is young, powerful and dynamic. He made some great catches yesterday and want to see him get out there and little more.”
When Benn has been on the field he has proved to be a weapon. In the Bucs’ final preseason game against the Texans he hauled in three catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns. During the bye week, expect the Bucs’ coaching staff to find more ways to get the ball in Benn’s hands more so he can start to make a splash on offense.
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