There has been a lot of talk about, and at times begging and pleading for, the Bucs to aggressively pursue a wide receiver in free agency. Now I am all for this, for many reasons. First, competition within the lineup can only create positive results. Also, a veteran wide receiver can bring more than just big play ability, they can also tutor our young receiving core and bestow the type of knowledge, that only experience can give. Furthermore, if the Tampa Bay coaching staff is trying to repair an apparent lack of work ethic created over the last few seasons, who better to help push young players than someone who is already a proven playmaker.
However, I believe it is too soon to give up on the talent that we do already have on our roster. Yes, I said it, we already have alot of talent at our WR position.
The way I see it, there are players that are expendable at WR. They happen to be our oldest guys, yet I would never give them the accolade of a veteran. Michael Spurlock and Sammie Stroughter have not done much for our receiving core in their four years with the team, however they do work well as special teams guys, and that is always valuable.
The players I want to discuss though, are the four guys that are coming into their prime.
Wait a minute…prime?? You’re using that word already??
Let me explain. Statistically speaking, almost every good wide receiver had their breakout year in year 3. I mean guys like Randy Moss and Jerry Rice were stars from the second their name was called on draft day, but just about everyone else that you would consider a great WR, was a 3rd year wonder.
Santana Moss, Miles Austin, Roddy White and Greg Jennings all had a significant stat boost in their junior year. Those names don’t convince you yet? Steve Smith, Plaxico Burress, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne all had okay second years, but again, it was the year after, that cemented everything for them. Even Ocho, Keyshawn and T.O. doubled touchdowns the third time around (two shy for T.O. but ya get the drift). Heck, Braylon Edwards improved by ten touchdowns (16 total, second only to a record-setting Moss that year) and made the probowl in year three. Other than that has never hit 1000 yards or double digit touchdowns since. He has a flatlined statline with one spike.
Now in saying all that I understand that some guys had reasons for their late blossoming. I’m sure the fact that Wes Welkers big year three was a consequence of it being his first year with the Pats. But, I am not going to let this knock my high horse of hope down. We have seen flashes of brilliance from all our juniors. Mike Williams had a great rookie season. Maybe he didn’t hit that vaunted rookie wall until last year, maybe it was the coaching and the lack of discipline. Whatever reason it was, we have seen that he can be good. We know it’s there. Arrelious Benn seemed to grab people’s attention last year moreso than his rookie year. I’m not sure why because he only had 5 more catches and less than fifty more yards. I think he too when utilized properly will have a HUGE boost in stats. And we only began seeing what Preston Parker and Dezmon Briscoe had in them, in little sparks last year.
We have seen good and bad from these guys, unfortunately a little more of the latter, but that is no reason to leave these guys on the bench watching. There is multiple reasons this could be the turnaround for them. Hiring Mike Sullivan as the offensive coordinator, is a good start. He will know how to utilize these guys properly in games. I’m sure if anybody could pick the good parts of their game and the strong points of their talent, and incorporate that into his scheme, it will be Sullivan. I’m not going to beat the dead horse, but he did do pretty well for himself with the Giants. And if it was a lack of discipline that reportedly affected Mike Williams’ game, Greg Schiano is a great coach to trust with turning that around.
Now maybe I’m making a mirage here out of a conceivable disappointment. I guess I’m an optimist (you almost have to be to enjoy being a Bucs fanatic) as I also didn’t see why people were so ready to give up on McCoy after his rookie season. He had a better statline then Warren Sapp’s rookie year with three less games. Maybe I just read too deep into it all, either way that’s another topic altogether.
A ton of evidence shows we could be in for an exciting year as Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Maybe many as potentially we have four players looking to become something more than average, and looking to prove themselves. If even one of them can step up, we are in for a treat.