Russell Shepard is in the mix for a WR spot – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
And then there were 10.
With the Bucs decision Monday to waive Donteea Dye, who played in 10 games for Tampa Bay last season, catching 11 passes for 132 yards, the team’s deep competition for the final receiver spot becomes a little less crowded. It still won’t make it an easy call, though.
“Like we’ve been saying all camp, it’s bunched up and you can take almost any guy out there and pick a day that that individual has shined,” coach Dirk Koetter said Monday. “We tend to lean towards consistency and guys that have shown they can make plays and make plays in game situations and then been consistent players, so we’re still looking. It’s down to the end here and a decision is going to have to be made.”
Reading between the lines a day later, it adds up that the Bucs made the move. Though Dye was solid on special teams in Week 2 in Jacksonville – the phase Koetter often emphasizes for bubble players – and continued to play well on offense in two joint practices with the Browns last week, he wasn’t consistent in games. An early injury on Saturday night derailed Dye’s progress, and as Koetter often says, “the best ability is availability.”
Later in the game Adam Humphries and Bernard Reedy returned punts for 73 and 34 yards, respectively, with Humphries going for a TD in the second quarter. That likely diminished Dye’s value as a return man and strengthened Reedy’s case for a final spot.
Assuming Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Adam Humphries and Russell Shepard round out the top four, the Bucs still have four other intriguing options for the fifth spot in Kenny Bell, Evan Spencer, Jonathan Krause and Louis Murphy.
On Tuesday Bell and Spencer spoke about the opportunity to get more reps in Week 4 of the preseason, with Evans, Jackson and Humphries likely sitting out for this one.
Bucs WR-KR Kenny Bell – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“It always helps knowing you’re going to get more chances at it,” said Bell, the Bucs fifth-found pick in 2015 who spent last year on IR. “I’ve had a few, but the ones that I’ve gotten are just tough. Jacksonville, that catch I had in the end zone … great ball, caught it clean, it’s just that the DB makes a great play. Next time the ball is thrown at me I just get smoked over the middle.”
The most frustrating part of August, Bell said, has been his lack of opportunities. Fumbling the opening kickoff in Philadelphia was a tough break, as were the two near-catches in Jacksonville. What’s worse is that he hasn’t had too many chances to redeem himself. That should change Wednesday night.
“If you have three opportunities and one’s a catch and one’s a contested catch, those stick out. You get eight targets and you catch six of them – that’s huge,” he said. “Tomorrow night is big. Like I said earlier, a break’s got to come for me. So that’s what I’m looking for tomorrow night.”
Spencer, for his part, is playing with added motivation against Washington, the team that drafted him. The former Buckeye, who had a good camp but has caught only two passes over the last three weeks, has considered the possibility of playing elsewhere but aims to remain in Tampa Bay.
“In the NFL there are 32 teams. Every time you step out on the field it’s an audition,” Spencer said. “I’m just happy that I landed down and here and I’ve been trying to make this my home for as long as possible. Getting to play with the first team this weekend is going to be a lot of fun.”
Jonathan Krause – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Jonathan Krause, a camp standout who Koetter praised multiple times, should also see first-team reps Wednesday. A former undrafted pro out of Vanderbilt, Krause caught two passes in Jacksonville, including a 41-yard reception from Ryan Griffin.
Still in the mix, as well, is eighth-year pro Louis Murphy. He has the most experience, and for the first time since his surgery for a torn ACL in November, the former Gator was out running routes and cutting on the practice field Monday.
Murphy spoke at length for the first time in a while Tuesday, and though he said he’s still not sure when the doctors will give him the go-ahead, he felt great getting back on the field. But it’s been a difficult road.
“It’s always tough,” Murphy said of his first serious injury. “As a competitor, you always want to get back on the field. This entire time, these last nine months, I feel like I’ve let my team down and this organization down. To not be out there and helping these guys move forward is tough on me. I haven’t had a good nights rest in probably nine months. I know I’m at the peak of my career and coming back … I’m definitely excited to return.”
Murphy, who’s caught 41 passes for 578 yards over two years in Tampa Bay, has sought advice from the likes of Adrian Peterson, Jordy Nelson and former Panthers’ teammate Thomas Davis, all of who have returned from ACL tears.
“It really takes about a full year to get it completely healed up, from those guys standpoint,” Murphy said. “But some come back quicker than others. It’s all about how the body reacts to it.
“I trust the training staff and their opinions and what they say. I’ll just take it day by day … I’m just here to help in any way I can.”
Until he’s able to take the field, that means serving as a mentor to the younger players, especially the receiving group. As one of the veterans, Murphy has embraced the role and been a sounding board for the same guys fighting to possibly take his spot.
Nevertheless, he feels that it’s his obligation to the team to help young players come along.
“That’s part of how I feel when guys come into my life,” Murphy said. “First-year and second-year and third-year guys, (I’ll) give them stuff that I’ve learned over these last eight years. I just feel like I’m indebted to them. I feel like I should definitely help them out.
“I’m always here encouraging them, rooting them along, and from a vet standpoint, telling them what I see from the game.”
For the younger guys, Friday night could be a make or break game for their future in Tampa Bay.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I wonder, with Bridgewater going down with a serious injury; is Glennon still a trade target?
I understand Kenny Bell has been a likeable guy…and that’s good…but it sure sounds like a lot of excuses from him about dropping the ball – DB made a great play, I got hit hard, the ball was wet, I was caught off guard gazing at the hottie in the crowd…just catch the ball. As my high school coach used to say “excuses are for losers, winners have no need for excuses”.
…one way to be a winner would indeed be to catch 6 out of 8 passes thrown your way tomorrow night…let’s see if you can do it.
How very true EastEndBoy. Perhaps if Bell tried soaking his hands in a big tub of hand cream they might soften up and you wouldn’t hear that horrible “CLANG” noise when it bounces off his hands.
Whether it’s his hands or his nerves from having to mix it up with the big boys, only Bell could tell you for sure but I find it odd he shines in underwear football but when the pads go on his play diminishes.
He has one more chance to change peoples minds, I for one hope he does so.
“E” why would the Vikings want Glennon . They have a very capable backup in Shaun Hill who is 16-18 as a starter which is a much better winning percentage than Glennon’s.
6’5 220lb Joe Hill could come in and contribute and be an upgrade over what the bucs have now after Evans & Jackson… AFL Offensive Player of the Year (2016)
Career Arena statistics
Receiving yards: 5,510
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