In the first edition of Pewter Plank Mailbag, reader Johathan emailed and asked the following:
I’m really interested in our Receivers and Cornerbacks on the back end (of the depth chart). In your opinion, is there anyone that wasn’t on the 53-man roster last season (other than Revis of course) at those two positions that we might want to keep an eye on through training camp?
And a great start to the mailbag, indeed. Great question!
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In my opinion, there are definitely newcomers at corner and wideout who could not only play, but make some noise in 2013. Both positions have an obvious top two (Jackson and Williams on offense, Revis and Wright on defense), but after that, there is room for competition, and these three guys could make a big impact:
Deveron Carr, Cornerback
Carr was an undrafted rookie free agent who was given a decent paycheck to choose the Bucs over a few other suitors for his signature. He’s a decent sized, very quick corner out of Arizona State who seemed to rely on his speed rather than his technique while playing for the Sun Devils. As SBNation’s House of Sparky points out, he’s got the elite speed that Johnthan Banks lacks, and just needs to be molded into an NFL corner instead of just being an athlete who lines up against receivers.
Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik don’t usually take too many chances on guys who don’t work hard, but they do have the track record of developing an underwhelming late round corner with good speed into a serviceable backup (E.J. Biggers). I feel like the first four spots at corner are locked in (Revis, Wright, Banks, and Leonard Johnson.), but as we saw last year, that’s not enough in today’s NFL, and not with the injury risks the top two corners have. So Carr has to compete with Anthony Gaitor, Danny Gorrer, and Myron Lewis for a spot on the roster, and his speed and size seem to give him a good platform from which to state his case. His best case scenario is to play a few dozen snaps if everyone stays healthy, but should Eric Wright fail to stay on the field, it opens to door for Carr to take the same route Leonard Johnson took in 2012 and turn into a contributor on defense.
Kevin Ogletree, Wide Receiver
Ogletree broke out in 2012, posting more receptions in his 15 games played than he did in his previous three seasons combined. And while 25% of his 32 catches came Week One against the New York Giants, he did provide a consistent target, dropping only 3 passes on 55 targets. That’s a better drop rate than Marques Colston, A.J. Green, and Brandon Marshall had last season. And while Ogletree lacks the athleticism and playmaking ability of the previously mentioned players, his reliable hands and developing comfort level with running routes should come in handy to replace the inconsistency of Tiquan Underwood. Olgetree has a chance to be the short and intermediate target Josh Freeman needs and can rely on to be where he needs to be.
Steve Smith, Wide Receiver
If Olgetree doesn’t excite you, Steve Smith is sure to give you hope for another playmaker on the outside for the Bucs. Smith is just as good as Ogletree in terms of being reliable and a good route runner, and adds in a level of athleticism and bravery not found in any of the other receivers competing for the third receiver job. So he’s the shoe-in for the job, right? Not exactly. Smith has struggled to stay healthy, and lost his job in New York to Victor Cruz before bouncing around, failing to catch on and perform as well as he did with the Giants. But if he’s even 80 or 90 percent of his former self, he’s much better than any player the Buccaneers have as a potential third receiver. And he’ll be back with Mike Sullivan, who was in his last year as wide receivers coach in New York when Smith caught 107 passes and made a name for himself.
Be sure to e-mail in your questions for next time, or just leave them in the comments below!