02 AUG 2015: 2015 first overall pick in the NFL Draft, Jameis Winston (3) and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter during Buccaneers Training Camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida.
Training camp is still four months away, but discussions of position depth/battles have already begun to take place. Of course many areas on the roster are subject to change when teams add their respective draft class next month, though it’s never too early to take a look at the current situation.
Regarding the Buccaneers, head coach Dirk Koetter reflected on numerous areas during his sit down with the Tampa Bay media at the NFL Owners Meetings in Boca Raton earlier this week. Koetter hinted that Tampa Bay is satisfied with its depth at wide receiver, is exercising all possibilities as to who will return kicks and is confident in their quarterback depth, among other things. Here’s a closer look at Koetter’s assessments from last Wednesday.
• On the wide receiving corps
After being plagued by injuries last season, from Vincent Jackson’s two knee injuries that sidelined him six weeks to Mike Evans strained hamstring to begin the year, Koetter believes the unit is in better shape atop the depth chart entering this season. Jackson’s age, 33, is of no concern to Koetter and he’s confident Evans will fix the drop issues. Looking down the depth chart, Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye displayed some of Koetter’s best work last season. Humphries, undrafted out of Clemson in 2015, caught 27 passes for 260 yards and became a key target on third down, while Dye, also an undrafted rookie, hauled in 11 passes for 132 yards in Jackson’s absence in the latter half of the year. The Bucs corps lacked speed, but Koetter warned against drafting someone based on 40-time, saying, “They have to be able to show up on third down, they have to be able to play in the red zone,” not just get behind the defense a couple times.
Bucs WRs Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson & Kenny Bell – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I feel fine about our receiving corps,” Koetter said. “Obviously at the top with Vincent and Mike, and I’m not a believer that Vincent Jackson is anywhere close to being done. I think both of his injuries (last year) were both extremely freakish, that you’re not going to take a helmet right on the knee in both instances. He’s a fast healer and I think Mike is going to have a rebound year, if you can call 1,200 yards a bad season. And I’m really excited about the competition we have with the four young guys, Adam, DD, Kenny Bell and Evan Spencer. I’m really excited about those four and then you have the two vets, Louis Murphy and Russell Shephard. And that’s pre-draft, so I don’t think our wide receiver spot is in bad shape at all.”
•On the current punt return situation
The Bucs’ punt return game last season was handled solely by Bobby Rainey, who fielded 29 punts and returned 15 for an average of 9.9 yards. Rainey also had two returns for over 50 yards, but the role remains wide open for 2016. As far as kickoff, the rule change, which moves touchbacks to the 25-yard line, will certainly lessen the amount of returns, but Koetter still threw in some new names of guys who could go back deep to field, if not just for protection.
“(Punt return) is another position that’s going to be open to consideration,” Koetter said. “We still have some guys that we have in mind. Guys that are on our current team right now, Adam Humphries would be a candidate for that. Brent Grimes is a guy that can go back there and catch it in a clutch. We’ll be adding to that as we go along… We’re thinking of Kenny (Bell) more as a kickoff return guy. Kenny or maybe Charles Sims in that role, give him a few more touches. I think you’re going to see, with the rule passed where the ball can come out to the 25 (on touchbacks) you’re going to see a lot less kickoff returns.”
•On the center position
Joe Hawley proved to be the best center on the team last season, evidenced by the fact he remained the starter even when Evan Smith returned healthy from an ankle injury. Hawley had prior experience playing for Koetter from his time in Atlanta, and got the seal of approval from the Bucs then-offensive coordinator when the team signed him last September. Despite Hawley’s productive season and developed chemistry with Jameis Winston, Koetter wasn’t ready to name him the preseason starter, though it appears to be a battle between he and Smith as of now.
“Well we’re going to have competition at center between Joe and Evan,” Koetter said. “Some of that’s going to come down to health, but we have two guys who we think can do a good job at center. And we’re going to continue to develop our depth at center. Kevin Pamphile is a guy who we were able to work some at center, and also Ali Marpet.”
• On depth at quarterback
The idea of a potential trade involving Mike Glennon has gained traction the past couple weeks, with general manager Jason Licht confirming league interest. Multiple teams still appear to be unsettled at the position and the Bucs backup quarterback could provide the best option in a few circumstances. Koetter reigned praise on Glennon, who’s earned a reputation as one of the league’s premier backups, but said the team is comfortable with Ryan Griffin if Glennon leaves. Griffin, who was signed off the Saints practice squad last September, was kept on the active roster for precisely this possibility. Along with preventing another team from signing him away, Tampa Bay wanted the Tulane grad to get experience in the offense, leaving the team in good position if an offer came in for Glennon. Koetter will leave those decisions up to the front office, but gave both quarterbacks a vote of confidence.
“I am on record saying Mike Glennon is a starter in the NFL,” Koetter said. “I am a huge Mike Glennon fan and would love to have him on our football team. But it is a business and if something happens and he is not with us, that is why we acquired Ryan Griffin last year – to be able to hopefully ascend into that spot at some point. We are in good position at that spot. I think we are probably as good – we are definitely in the top few teams in the league – with our depth at quarterback. We are going to have to just see how it plays out. If the right opportunity presents itself, Jason is going to have to make a decision.
“Most teams in the NFL, when they put their backups in, they are nervous,” Koetter continued on Griffin. “There is no one out there who is going, ‘Man I hope I back up goes in there and play today,’ mainly because they haven’t prepared. But what we have seen from Ryan Griffin is, he has been well coached before we got him in college. Well prepared. And the fact he spent some time in New Orleans around their quarterback who is one of the best and their coaching staff that is outstanding – I think that needs to be noted. He has spent a lot of time with Mike. He really throws the ball well. He has nice touch. We call it turning the ball over. He turns the ball over nice. We are always looking for guys who can turn the ball over. And he works at it every day. We are in our game plan meetings and he is asking as many questions as Jameis. Sometimes I want to say, ‘Griff, relax for a second.’ But we have a limited amount of film to look at from the preseason and I think he did a good job. We liked what he did.”
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 protected]
Well if you went to buccaneers.com on Thursday all of this is in Coach Koetter Press Session.
I will bring up two things considering WR’s? Jackson will have some nagging injuries due his age and I can see us picking up another WR in the later rounds or due a trade swap for a WR. Too much of a gamble to ignore Jenkins injuries and I believe select a late round or trade swap for another TE.
Shhhhh… Don’t tell drdneast that Koetter is confident Evans will fix his drop problem, or he’ll have to come to One Buc to explain to coach K that Evans doesn’t have a drop problem. No room for opinions other than his
Ho Hum….rerun info. Need off season camps to start.
Well Matador, I think Koetter isn’t concerned about the “drop issue” because he sees the “issue” the same as I.
He isn’t making a mountain out of molehill because he realizes the large majority of the drops came in the two games I have pointed to countless times before.
However Matador, if you would like to counter with a more viable argument, please do so, just make sure you present the facts to give it credibility.
Evans had problem with drops, no need to break it down how many were in this many games etc if you drop the ball its a drop and Evans led the league with them with 13 and that has to be fixed
jongruden, ok, I get it. You want to ignore the facts and fix a problem that really doesn’t exist.
Sort of like, “Make America Great Again.”
Led the league in drops with 13 why are you so stubborn not to see that as a problem? You keep throwing out “facts” when you ignore them yourself don’t make excuses for them just accept them and fix them
Mike Evans caught 68 balls for 1,051 yards as a rookie. He caught 74 passes for 1,206 yards in 2015 but lead the NFL in drops (11). Dropped passes were an issue for Evans all season, including a six-drop day in a loss to the Giants, and working to cut them out of his game will be part of the team’s plans heading into this season.
Dirk Koetter, at the owners meeting, said that Evans needs to be more consistent in his preparation and work habits in order to get the most out of his talent. Calling it a bad year would be a stretch, but it could have been a better one and the Bucs would like to see improvement.. Like Jon Gruden says, the Bucs acknowledge that it’s a problem (if you want to call 1,200 yards a problem) and getting it fixed is a priority!
I had heard 11 on NFL Network before and now macabee confirmed that number. He also stated he had six in the Giants game, with I am sure the majority of those coming in the second half when it started raining heavily.
So more than half his drops came in one game in a downpour.
I would pretty much bet he dropped three or four against the Texans, his first game back from recovering from a hamstring.
So no, two games with drops because of extenuating circumstances do not distress me.
I know some of you out here who want to label every draft pick a bust because they don’t reach All Pro status in the first two years or get hysterical over every drop do, but I’m just not in that boat and never have been.
I don’t know what drives the mindset of someone who views performances like that, but I am here to bring the opposing viewpoint.
For some strange illogical reason some of you are out there to label Evans as the next Michael Clayton which he was the furthest from being last year.
Like I said, Koetter isn’t making a mountain out of a molehill, why should you,
Also, I haven’t ignored then, I agreed probably a half dozen times with drops but only in “two games.”
A qb can throw 20 in’t in 3 games its still 20 ints on the stat sheet, drops are drops and I heard two excuses for Evans 1. Rain 2. Back from injury its funny how nobody else dropped balls in that same rain, no worse when you play in snow, wind or the qb just has sweaty hands lol you wear gloves catch the ball. Now does that mean I think he is a bust? No, in fact I think he is a play maker but imagine how good he can be if he cleaned up the drops
Im actually of opposite thinking with the 25 yard spot on kickoffs. Obviously the return man will want to take a knee, but its also in turn going to make the kicking team make a point to kick the ball within the five yard line high to avoid giving them a free 25 yards. Return guys may actually see an increase in return attempts now. Take that with the extra point being kept back for good that puts a lot more value on kickers moving forward
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