Bucs WR Donteea Dye - Photo by: Getty Images
“Unstable” might be putting it lightly when addressing the Bucs’ current situation at wide receiver.
And running back, and defensive end, and defensive tackle. But like offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Wednesday regarding injuries on his side of the ball, it’s an issue that needs to be handled and that’s about it.
“The reality is nobody cares,” Monken said. “Nobody cares who’s playing. They want you to figure it out. That’s part of what we do as coaches is we figure out the puzzle. I really don’t care what San Francisco’s problems are, they don’t care about ours. Their fans don’t care, our fans don’t care. We have to figure it out. That’s our job.”
Bucs WR Donteea Dye – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Just one day after Bucs fans received the good news about receiver Louis Murphy’s future return, they were hit with the news that veteran Vincent Jackson and his torn anterior cruciate ligament are headed for the injured reserve list. Coaches now have the job of bolstering a depleted unit and players are tasked with performing up to expectations.
That process started with Wednesday’s promotion of receiver Donteea Dye from the practice squad to the active roster. The second-year pro is no stranger to Bucs fans, playing in 10 games last season while catching 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Dye’s promotion gives Tampa Bay five active-roster wideouts. He joins Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, Cecil Shorts and Russell Shepard.
The big question that needs answered moving forward, however, is who will step in to fill Jackson’s role as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver?
Jackson ranks fourth among all Buccaneers with 15 catches for 173 yards and third among wideouts, behind Evans (32 for 449) and Humphries (20 for 216). The only other receivers to record a catch this season are Shepard (three for 22) and Shorts (one for 12).
“First and foremost, the guys that end up taking Vincent’s place have to be as consistent as he’s been,” Monken said. “And that’s the biggest thing with Vincent. Playing as long as he has, he doesn’t always have to have the reps on the field to be able to take it to the field. He can take it from the meeting room. He does a lot of things in the run game so we have to have some guys step up and do that. But I’m confident in the guys we have that we’ll be just fine.”
The available replacement options also differ from Jackson in terms of size and skill set. Jackson’s a 33-year-old, big-bodied, 6-foot-5 target. Shepard is listed at 6 foot 1, Dye and Shorts are both 6-even, and are more speed guys primarily.
Cut in August before being brought back to the practice squad Monday and promoted Wednesday, Dye said he’s trying to take everything in stride.
“You never know what is going to happen around here,” Dye said. “It kind of happened to me last year. I’m just blessed to be back and to be a part of the game. It’s sad to see V-Jax go down like that. He’s such a big role in our offense. I’m just ready to accept the role I have right now and go get some wins. I had no clue I would be back in this situation, but I always hoped for it. They gave me my first chance and it’s my home. I’m happy to be back here.”
When asked about who the team can count on to step up, the unit’s top man said he’s unconcerned.
“All our receivers are very capable receivers,” Evans said Wednesday. “We have a very good receivers room – Cecil Shorts, Louis Murphy, DD and Adam – everybody can make plays. It’s a big loss, obviously. V-Jax is one of our captains, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re going to go out there and play for him.”
Humphries has forged a role as the team’s slot receiver, but Jackson’s absence may present opportunities for the Clemson product lining up outside. “This being my second year in the offense I feel like I’m pretty comfortable working at the outside positions. Obviously I’ve been working mostly in the slot this year, but if they need me to go outside and run some outside stuff I can do that. But with DD coming back and Louis and Cecil, those are three guys that are very capable of playing outside positions.”
Murphy’s availability for Sunday’s game in San Francisco is unknown, but unlikely. He’s in a 21-day practice period after being activated Monday from the reserve/physically unable to perform list. When asked if Jackson’s injury changes his recovery schedule, Murphy said he’s just taking trainers’ advice and going to work.
“I’m on the same course,” he said, “trusting what the staff and coaches have planned for me. It’s out of my hands, so whatever their plans are, that’s what I’m going with.
“I’ve been playing ball for eight years, so it’s nothing new to me — in my mind. I know in everybody else’s mind they want to see certain things, but that’s part of the business. But in my mind and my body, I feel great.”
This is Dye’s big chance. Hopefully he actually gets some playing time. He has shown some flashes. We need him big time now.
In the Training Camp practice sessions I watched Dye looked better than last season. He looked more comfortable. Very smooth in his route running and he does have some much needed speed.
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