Of Adam Humphries’ 18 receptions through the first three weeks of the season, four of his catches have come off short screen passes turned into gains of at least 24 yards. The screen, which has accounted for all of Humphries’ “explosives” so far, has been used often by the Bucs offense and it takes a shifty runner to execute.
Using his blockers effectively and finding open space a couple of times last Sunday – catches for 29 and 31 yards – Humphries certainly demonstrated an ability to turn a quick pass into big yards.
“He’s a good football player, really smart and knows all the spots,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said of Humphries Wednesday. “Again, I think one thing that showed up Sunday was his toughness. That’s probably the biggest thing. And he’s better with the ball in his hands.”
The Bucs were the team to first realize Humphries’ “YAC” ability. At Clemson he was the guy blocking for future first-round receivers, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, something Monken thought of recently and confronted Humphries about.
Adam Humphries– Photo by: Getty Images
“I asked, ‘Did you ever catch a screen at Clemson? He said, ‘No, they didn’t throw it to me. I was the only guy who would block.’” Monken said, drawing laughs. “I said, ‘We have to call Dabo [Swinney] because you must have had some pretty good guys.’ [Humphries] had had (four) explosives in three weeks.”
Humphries, for his part, said he enjoys being the receiver now, but had no complaints about blocking for “stud receivers” in college. The second-year pro, who had a career-day with nine receptions for 100 yards against the Rams, said one of the reasons for his improvement in the screen-game has been his practice as a punt returner. The technique is “almost identical,” he said.
He’s also just more comfortable in the offense overall.
“I don’t have to run out there and worry about what I’m going to do, but instead [worry about] what the defense is going to give us and what I can do to run the best route against that look,” Humphries said in open locker. “Just going out there, I feel like everything has slowed down for me mentally on the field, and that’s helped out a lot.”
Humphries said he looks up to slot receivers like Wes Welker, now retired, and Patriots’ Julian Edelman, two 5-foot-10 guys known for playing with “passion” and running similar routes as he does in Tampa Bay. The parallels are there.
Both Welker and Edelman were (are) also known to go over the middle and take some punishing shots. And Humphries, like Monken said, has shown his toughness and understands the nature of the position.
“Being a slot receiver, you have to be ready to take a couple hits,” Humphries said. “I took a couple hits last week and I feel like that’s the story every game. A lot of those underneath and crossing routes, you know you’re going to take some shots there. You have to protect the ball, No. 1, and just try to stay healthy.”
Update: Thursday 10:59 AM
Later Wednesday, head coach Dirk Koetter suggested the Bucs may need to tone down the screens to Humphries as teams’ are beginning to identify the play pre snap. The Rams, for example, were calling them out last Sunday.
“[Humphries has] done really good on it, to the point where we probably need to stop using him because about three times the other night [the Rams] were calling it out looking for it in certain formations,” Koetter said. “Any time that starts happening, that means you’re overusing it and you’ve got to figure out a different way.”
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: email@example.com