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July 14, 2013 @ 9:49 am
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Bucs Roster Battle Preview: Wide Receivers

Written by Pewter
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Pewter Report Staff

Pewter
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Football fans, training camp is right around the corner and optimism abounds throughout Tampa Bay. But before the Bucs can make a serious playoff run, several positions will need to be solidified. PewterReport.com will take a look at some of these key positions over the next 10 days. First up – wide receivers.
With training camp just 10 days away, PewterReport.com is a taking a look at the Bucs roster where key and important battles will be taking place, beginning July 25 behind One Buccaneer Place. Sunday we preview the wide receiver position.

The Buccaneers, despite periods of inconsistency at times in 2012, produced their most potent offense in franchise history with 5,820 yards of total offense and 389 total points scored. A big part of their success was based on the play of their wide receivers. 2012 free agent acquisition Vincent Jackson was even better than advertised, bringing professionalism and displaying leadership qualities that were sorely lacking over the last several years. Jackson’s presence was a huge boost for Mike Williams who put up a terrific season, benefiting at times from the attention garnered to Jackson from opposing defenses.

But the No. 3 position was a bit of an enigma for Tampa Bay, first with Preston Parker, then Arrelious Benn, before Tiquan Underwood eventually earned the job. The Bucs are set with Jackson and Williams, but who will earn the No. 3 spot? Who will be the backups in case Jackson or Williams go down with an injury? That is is why the receiver battle will be one of most watched in training camp this season.

ROSTER LOCKS
Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams
Both of Tampa Bay’s starting receivers are etched in stone heading into training camp barring injury. Jackson, Tampa Bay’s No. 1 receiver, had a tremendous 2012 season and there are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon. The veteran recorded 72 catches for 1,384 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2012. Entering the second year of his 5-year, $55 million contract and there is no reason to think Jackson isn’t poised for another big season.

As noted above, from Day One of OTAs in 2012, Jackson clearly took on the leadership role on offense and PewterReport.com noted last spring that it was Jackson who was always first in line during drills. Jackson’s success has helped ease the sting of the ghosts of the Alvin Harper and Bert Emanuel free agent blunders that still roamed the halls of One Buc prior to 2012.

Williams, a 2010 fourth-round draft selection, has been a very good player for the Buccaneers over the past three seasons. He has yet to post 1,000 yards in a season, but he has come close on two occasions. Last year Williams racked up 63 catches for 996 yards and nine scores. Williams is an ideal situation as the team’s No. 2 receiver behind an extremely talent Vincent Jackson. The Syracuse product will be a free-agent following the 2013 season if a deal is not completed before training camp, leaving some to believe that Williams will put up career numbers in hopes of scoring a big-time contract.

Williams has been a standout since his first practice in 2010, but still needs to develop more consistency in the short and intermediate passing routes. When a jump ball is thrown, Williams has shown the ability to out jump or tip a ball over a defender and demonstrate amazing concentration in bringing the ball in more times than not. But shorter routes, particular the quick slant, still is something the Buffalo native occasionally struggles with, particularly when he allows the ball to get to his body and opposed to catching it with his hands.

ROSTER HOPEFULS
Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood
A new face walking around the halls of One Buc Place is former Dallas Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree. Tampa Bay hired John Garrett to be the team’s wide receiver coach earlier this offseason following the departure of P.J. Fleck. Garrett was the Cowboys’ wide receiver coach in 2012, where he coached Ogletree and the rest of the Dallas pass-catchers. The two have reunited in Tampa. Ogletree is in a great position to make a push up the Buccaneers’ depth chart.

Ogletree started the season as Dallas’ No. 3 receiver and had a few nice games. He eventually lost his gig when the team decided to give young receiver Dwayne Harris more chances at the slot receiver position in between Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Ogletree is just 25 years old and put up some solid numbers for Dallas in a few games during the 2012 season. The former Virginia receiver caught eight balls for 114 yards in the season opener against the Giants, but his targets diminished quickly as the season went on. Sources tell PewterReport.com that the Buccaneers are very high on Ogletree and think he has the ability to solidify the slot receiver position.

The incumbent slot receiver for the Buccaneers is former Rutgers receiver Tiquan Underwood, who is best known for his speed and his outstanding hair. Underwood snagged 28 passes for 425 and two touchdowns last season and was third on the Buccaneers’ wide receiver depth chart by the end of the season. Underwood is a nice depth player, but he has a low ceiling and will likely never be anything more than a number three receiver. The Buccaneers knew that they needed to bring in some competition to challenge him, and that’s why they went and signed Ogletree. Underwood is a locker room favorite of teammates and the media alike, but had some key drops late in the season. Underwood needs to improve his concentration and go back to the Pee Wee football rule – catch the ball before you run with it.

ROSTER BUBBLES
David Douglas, Chris Owusu, Eric Page, Derek Hagan, Terriun Crump, Carlton Mitchell, Jerry Johnson
Earlier this offseason, the Buccaneers signed speedy wide receiver Eric Page. Coming out of school, Page was touted for his speed and excellent production. He was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent following the 2012 draft, but Page was later waived after tearing his ACL before training camp. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound receiver was outstanding for the Toledo Rockets, as he ended his collegiate career as Toledo’s all-time leading receiver. The speed demon caught 306 passes for 3,443 yards and 25 touchdowns in just three seasons. Page was one of the best kick returners in college football throughout his career, and will fight to land the starting gig as the Buccaneers’ primary kick returner during training camp. 

Another quick receiver that will be fighting for the starting kick returner job is former Stanford receiver Chris Owusu. The former track star ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine last year, opening the eyes of scouts and talent evaluators around the league. Before joining Tampa Bay, Owusu was signed and later waived by the San Francisco 49ers, and also was on the San Diego Chargers practice squad. The 6-foot, 196-pound receiver will be on the roster bubble once again as the Buccaneers head into training camp.

Wide receiver David Douglas was talked up by the Tampa Bay coaching staff frequently throughout organized team activities and mini-camps. The second-year pro was swiped up by the Buccaneers off of the New York Giants practice squad in 2012. The former Arizona receiver played in one game in 2012, but failed to record any catches last season.

One of the most intriguing pass-catcher of this group of receivers is Carlton Mitchell, formerly of the University of South Florida. The former Bull was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth-round of the 2010 draft but had a disappointing career for the Browns. But Mitchell is only 25 years old and has some impressive athletic skills. The 6-foot-3 receiver has the ability to run in the low 4.4 range in the forty-yard dash, making him an ideal player to invite to camp with no risk.

Derek Hagan is a notable player because he has great familiarity with the offensive playbook, as he was coached by Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan when he played for the Giants in 2008. Hagan was a member of the Oakland Raiders prior to joining Tampa Bay. He has never posted a season totaling more than 400 yards receiving yards during his 8-year professional career.

Final Analysis: PewterReport.com predicts that Ogletree will edge out Underwood and the rest of the receivers to become Tampa Bay’s No. 3 receiver when training camp concludes, but the battle should be one of the best ones to watch in camp. Underwood is ultra-competitive and won’t go down without a fight. And don't automatically count out the other above-mentioned players, as one could emerge from the shadows.

–Eric Dellaratta and Mark Cook contributed to this report



Last modified on Sunday, 14 July 2013 11:26
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COMMENTS

  • avatar

    I think this will be one of the most exciting seasons to watch in Buc History.First time we have a Dominant Offense & Defense together.We Will be in the Playoffs! GO BUCS!!! It's time to get excited and stop worrying about what might not work out.This Team will shock most NFL fans & analyst.
  • avatar

    I'm feeling our WR Corp should get better as the season progresses, simply from having to navigate the upgrades to our secondary. That is if our secondary lives up to it's billing, which I feel it will. The TE position is puzzling to me in that in this system it appears run blocking and decoy comes across as the primary mission. However, we will need a TE with hands like K2 had when called upon.
  • avatar


    I first started thinking seriously about the WR battle behind Jackson and Williams when I took a longer look at our first game against the Jets. They have good CB's, but their safeties and LB's suck. So I started thinking about which WR and TE could take advantage of that in the middle and was disappointed to find that I don't think we have the WR or TE to take advantage of great matchups like that. Not that I'm panicking because it's not like Clark lit the world on fire last year, but he was a good route runner and great hands. Hopefully Olgetree works out but I don't have a good feeling about him. He's got WR coach Garrett swinging from his sack for some reason but I don't like how he couldn't take advantage of his opportunity to be the #3 WR last year.
  • avatar

    @Matador....I think if anybody's skills at analysis are suspect they are yours. We have the #1 rush defense in all of football and the DL is suspect? McCoy is a pro bowler and he's not lived up to his billing? Injuries don't reflect on his play when he's healthy and he will be healthy. Biceps tears rarely reoccur. Bowers and Clayborn will be one of the top DE line combos in the NFL....bank on it. We will also have the best secondary this year. I'm not fearing anything. This is our division this year.
  • avatar


    Underwood is not built to be a slot receiver. He's got strait line speed, but is not a quick twitch athlete. He's to tall, and lanky. You want a guy who can turn a linebackers ankles on a quick 5 yd square out playing the slot. Ogletree wins the job, but I can't wait to see Page in the pre season. I think he's ideal for the slot, and a great change up to Jackson, and Williams.
  • avatar


    I vote for underwood's hair. All kidding aside, I love his speed and hope he can overcome the drops. After years of having just so-so speed at wr, the past few years have been refreshing and I'd like to have the fastest wr win the spot if at all possible.
  • avatar


    Let's hope Underwood returns to the way he played before he got popped. Don't know much about the others vying for a roster spot but they all seem to have some speed. Wouldn't surprise me to see some players released from other teams brought in at the end of Training Camp.
  • avatar


    Underwood has hands too, but had drops at the end of the season because of lapses in concentration. If he can fix the concentration problem, we need him on the roster to fill in for our starters should any of them get hurt. I am fine with Ogletree as a possession receiver to move the chains. Don't write off Demps who is a lot more durable than other speedy returners and is more flexible since he also can be a backup RB. So I am pulling for Ogletree, Underwood, and Demps to be the other three receivers to make the roster.
  • avatar

    jongruden. Let's meet back here after the battle. I think the discussion will be interesting
  • avatar


    I don't consider this position the one to watch. For me it is at the DE/DT pertaining to Pass Rush. Who is a legit starting DE if injury or performance slips with either Bowers or Clayborn? At DT I am not concerned about McCoy and his backup, but having a 4th round pick declared to be the other DT starter when we don't have even a strong back up has got to be a concern?
  • avatar


    The fact so much concern is (deservedly) being directed at the DL shows how suspect the player analysis skills at One Buc have been for the past 5+ yrs. To have sunk as much as we have into the DL during that period as we have, and it still not being clear if we have a single top caliber player on the roster, says it all. If D'Q and Clayborn aren't BOTH starting caliber players with consistency, we'll be hanging our hats on GMC's less than hoped for play through his first contract, Ugh. Too thin to keep backfilling all these mistakes. Hoping for the best, fearing the worst.
  • avatar

    I to predict Ogletree to beat out incumbent Underwood and I think the other wr will make it due to his special teams prowess so we will see who stands out more one thing I know its not Jeff Demps
  • avatar

    I'll be there to watch the Ogletree, Underwood battle . Underwood has the speed but, Ogletree has the hands. Should be interesting.
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