Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Buccaneer wideouts ready for breakout

With the drafting of Josh Freeman in 2009, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers embarked on a complete renovation of the ball handlers on offense.  The first target was the wide receivers group, starting with Sammie Stroughter a few rounds later.  In 2010, WRs Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn were drafted.  Those three have taken more than the lions share of starts at wideout for the past two seasons.  Add in Preston Parker (2010 undrafted free agent) and Dezmon Briscoe (plundered from the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad in 2010) and you have a set of highly productive pass-catchers.  However, injury and youth have conspired to keep this group from reaching their potential.

The most productive pass-catcher in 2011 (and 2010) was TE Kellen Winslow, now departed in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Enter Vincent Jackson, free agent from San Diego and one of the most coveted players in the 2012 free agent pool.  Winslow caught 75 passes for 763 yards in 2011; Jackson caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards.  Winslow produced 2 touchdowns in 2011; Jackson scored 9 touchdowns in 2011.

Based on statistics, the Winslow and Jackson moves appear to shift the emphasis from the Tight End position out to the Wide Receivers for 2012.  This does not imply the Tampa Bay Tight End squad will not be productive, it just means the proven playmakers are now on the edge. In theory, this should force opposing defenses to play from the inside out instead of from the outside to the middle. There is no doubt the Buccaneers will be looking for a new, younger TE to emerge in 2012 (a story for another day), but that person will not be option #1 for Josh Freeman down after down after down.

When going to training camp on July 29th, the Buccaneer's Wide Reciever group will bring the following 2011 production (sorted by Receiving Yards):


Wideout Ht Wt Games Starts Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Notes
Jackson, Vincent 6'5" 230 16 16 60 1106 18.4 58 9 FA (SD)
Williams, Mike 6'2" 212 16 15 65 771 11.9 42 3
Parker, Preston 6'0" 200 16 0 40 554 13.9 51 3
Benn, Arrelious 6'2" 220 14 14 30 441 14.7 65T 3
Briscoe, Dezmon 6'2" 210 16 2 35 387 11.1 46 6
Stroughter, Sammie 5'10" 189 6 0 4 52 13 29 0
Underwood, Tiquan 6'1" 183 6 0 3 30 10 13 0 FA (NE)
Wright, Wallace 6'1" 197 16 0 2 21 10.5 14 0 FA (NYJ)
Gant, Ed 6'3" 200 4* 0 5 164 32.8 96 1 * All Preseason
Ellingson, Greg 6'3" 197 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2012 College FA
Lewis, Armahd 5'8" 171 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2012 College FA


Williams and Benn have been on the field for a great majority of snaps in each of their two seasons in the NFL.  Parker and Briscoe broke out last season to demonstrate they can be productive players.  Stroughter was slowed by injury in 2011.  Gant wowed during the 2011 preseason with a 96 yard touchdown catch and his NFL size.

If I had to build a depth chart today, it would probably shake out this way:

Right side WR (Freeman's Right Hand, Primary Receiver)
Vincent Jackson - The big paycheck means make him #1
Mike Williams - Won't learn anything from Jackson if he's learning some other position

Left Side WR (Freeman's Back, Secondary Receiver)
Arrelious Benn - Can be a deep threat
Dezmon Briscoe - Extremely productive in the red zone last season

Slot
Preston Parker - Slot is a 3rd down position; Parker is Mr. Third Down
Sammie Stroughter - He may also have some kick/punt return duties

Of those six, Stroughter is the player most in jeopardy to be replaced by one of the free agents, but his punt returning skills are hard to ignore.  Gant and Ellingson have the physical size to play into the interior from the slot.  Armahd is a burner, and Underwood and Wright bring experience from playoff-caliber teams.

How good could this group be?  Here are the best seasons of the players in this group with NFL game experience:


Wideout Ht Wt Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Year
Jackson, Vincent 6'5" 230 68 1167 17.2 55 9 2009
Williams, Mike 6'2" 212 65 964 14.8 58T 11 2010
Parker, Preston 6'0" 200 40 554 13.9 51 3 2011
Benn, Arrelious 6'2" 220 30 441 14.7 65T 3 2011
Briscoe, Dezmon 6'2" 210 35 387 11.1 46 6 2011
Stroughter, Sammie 5'10" 189 31 334 10.8 35 1 2009
Underwood, Tiquan 6'1" 183 8 111 13.9 22 0 2010
Wright, Wallace 6'1" 197 6 87 14.5 36 0 2007


It is a very solid group when playing to their potential.  A running game which opposing teams have to respect can only make this group more productive.

It is entirely possible for the Buccaneers to open the season with more than six WRs on the roster.  New offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan will make that call. In any case, this looks like one of the more polished groups on the pre-camp roster.  Look for a breakout year!




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