Second-year Bucs receiver Tyler Johnson has been having a solid training camp so far. He’s made every catch thrown his way while getting open down the field. This included a highlight reel one-handed touchdown catch over the weekend.
But camp didn’t necessarily start out great for him, as he was criticized by head coach Bruce Arians for coming into camp out of shape.
“He came back a little heavy,” Arians said. “And he’s getting back in shape, which is his own fault. We know he can catch the ball. He’s just got to be able to stay healthy and get in real good shape.”
On Tuesday, Arians was asked about the conditioning of his players in training camp. Although he didn’t name Johnson specifically, Arians’ words sounded like they were directed at a few guys like him.
Bucs CBs Antonio Hamilton and WR Tyler Johnson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Guys that don’t come in shape, it’s their own fault any more,” Arians said. “I mean they have everything handed to them to be in shape, so if their ‘give a shit meter’ don’t run hot enough it tells you something as a coach.”
Johnson also spoke on Tuesday and agreed with Arians’ comments. It’s on him for not starting the season in the right shape.
“Coach BA is definitely right,” Johnson said. “I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’ve been doing a lot of things just to get back into shape. It was my own fault for not coming in how I wanted to be, but I learned from it. I’ve been doing a lot of things to get back to myself. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling better, my goal is to get one percent better every day. We’re moving in that direction.”
For as good as of a camp that Johnson has been having, the competition at receiver is fierce and there’s little room for error. While Johnson saw some playing time as a rookie last year, catching 12 passes for 169 yards (14.1 avg.) and two touchdowns. The Minnesota product had two catches for 31 yards in the postseason.
With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller locked into the top four spots on the depth chart, that leaves a lot of talented receivers for the fifth and potentially sixth spots. Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Jaydon Mickens, Travis Jonsen, Josh Pearson, T.J. Simmons and more competing for those last spots.
Darden, the team’s fourth-round who is expected to have an important role on the Bucs this year. He’s been a standout early on in training camp as he continues to make play after play. Given Darden’s ability, Johnson’s roster spot is not locked in by any means.
“I like where Jaelon is,” Arians said. “I think Jaelon is making good progress as a young guy. Travis Jonsen is getting open. He’s getting open. He had some drops early in camp. He’s starting to catch those now. He hasn’t played receiver very long, but he’s a big, active guy. Mick (Jaydon Mickens) has good flexibility. (Cyril) Grayson was having a great camp until he tweaked his hamstring. All those guys are very, very capable. They’ve all played for us. You’re going to need six or seven as the year goes on. Hopefully we’ll have those guys on the practice squad potentially and continue to develop them.”
Bucs WR Tyler Johnson – Photo by USA TODAY Sports
Despite the competition, the receivers have all come together to support one another as practice intensifies.
“We’re super excited for one another,” Johnson said. “Every time somebody makes a play, the receivers are one of the first over there to congratulate each other because we know that we got ballers all over the place. Anybody can make a play at any moment, so I’m just happy to be in the same group with these guys.”
Arians will be happy when Johnson is in better shape.
When that happens he’ll be in better shape for making the Bucs’ 53-man roster, too.