Welcome to the next edition of our Training Camp Previews, where we go position by position to give you a look at how we feel each position will look heading into the regular season. We continue the series with a look at the Buccaneers’ wide receivers.
The plan is to take a look at each player and see what they’ve done in the past, and what sort of role we can expect from them in 2013. We’ll use our traditional “Good, Bad, Likely” format to give all possible outcomes for each position, and today we take a look at the wideouts.
Vincent Jackson, 8 Years Experience, Last Season: Started for Tampa Bay
Vincent Jackson was brought in last summer to help redefine the Buccaneers’ offense. The big, strong wideout had proven himself to be a big play receiver in the past, but was signed by the Bucs to take the next step and be featured in a vertical offense that takes advantage of his size and strength. Jackson didn’t disappoint, and enters 2013 as the definitive number one receiver in Tampa Bay.
Training camp and the preseason won’t mean much for Jackson, as his main goal should be to physically prepare himself for the season and avoid major injury. So for Vincent, there isn’t much to predict…
The Good, Bad, and Likely: Vincent Jackson is the number one receiver heading into 2013, ready to lead the offense in catches and yards yet again.
Mike Williams, 3 Years Experience, Last Season: Started for Tampa Bay
Like Jackson, Williams’ role is defined heading into 2013. And while Williams struggled when thrust into a more prominent role on the Buccaneers’ offense earlier in his career, he proved he’s reliable and capable as a secondary option at receiver in the current iteration of offense under Mike Sullivan. Mike has consistently hauled in just over 60 passes per year so far in his NFL career, and won’t be asked to do much more than that in 2013 as he continues to provide a deep threat opposite of Vincent Jackson and stretch defenses down the sidelines.
The Good, Bad, and Likely: Mike Williams is the number two receiver heading into 2013, providing an excellent secondary option across from Vincent Jackson.
Kevin Ogletree, 4 Years Experience, Last Season: Backup in Dallas
Ogletree hasn’t done much in his NFL career to date, but he broke out during week one of the 2012 season, logging a massive performance against the New York Giants where he hauled in 8 catches for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. He would fail to recreate that performance over the remainder of the 2012 season, but he did post a career high in catches, yards, and scores over the season, with only 3 dropped passes on 55 targets, and no fumbles.
He provides a better option than Tiquan Underwood over the middle, as he’s got more reliable hands on short yardage passes. According to Pro Football Focus, Underwood had three drops on passes over the middle under nine yards from the line of scrimmage, whereas Ogletree had only one. Both had eight catches in this scenario, but it took Underwood more targets to get these catches.
The former Virginia Cavalier has the opportunity to take another step forward in his NFL career with the Buccaneers in 2013, as he’ll get a great chance to earn a job as the third receiver in an offense surrounded with other excellent talent.
The Good: Ogletree proves that he’s the same receiver everyone watched break out during week one of 2012, and earns the third receiver job easily. He enters the season ready to command targets over the middle and provides an excellent tertiary receiving option in the Bucs’ offense.
The Bad: Ogletree is almost completely certain to make the roster, but he could be a fringe player in terms of being active every week if he fails to stand out. The Buccaneers will likely keep five or more receivers, and I don’t see any way that Ogletree’s skill, experience, and contract are let go before the season.
The Likely: I am not sure there will be a definitive third option heading into the year, but I believe that Ogletree is most likely to earn the “start” at third receiver, and find himself on the field most often at the beginning of the season.
Tiquan Underwood, 4 Years Experience, Last Season: Backup in Tampa Bay
Last season Underwood got his chance under his former college coach, and had his first relevant year in the NFL. He showed somewhat unreliable hands, but also showed a good bit of speed and the ability to make the big play on occasion.
But he seemed lost at times, and drew the frustration of Josh Freeman on more than one occasion. I don’t think he’s the ideal choice to be the number three receiver, but he has a role that will help him earn some snaps as an athletic option on the inside despite his lack of reliable catching ability.
The Good: Underwood is familiar with the system, and if none of the new receivers catch on quickly enough, he could earn the third job and start the year in the slot.
The Bad: Underwood is a free agent after 2013, so the Buccaneers would probably let him go if he’s not worthy of hanging around. That said, it’s more likely that Underwood makes the roster but fails to earn snaps.
The Likely: As I mentioned with Ogletree, I don’t think there will be a definitive number three all season long, so look for Underwood to see the field, even if he isn’t the first guy to line up in the slot this season for the Bucs.
Chris Owusu, 1 Year Experience, Last Season: Backup in Tampa Bay
Owusu has a long history of head injuries, which is going to cause a bit of hesitation before any team adds him to a roster in a prominent role. But he was an excellent prospect otherwise, perfectly capable of playing receiver in the NFL according to scouts. He’s always been great in practice, according to Rotoworld, but he’s not shown the ability to do it on the field.
The Good: Owusu gets a clean bill of health and performs well in the preseason, and not just training camp. He earns a good deal of snaps week one to see if he’s a legitimate option going forward.
The Bad: Assuming no other team shows interest, Owusu will likely wind up back on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the roster.
The Likely: I suspect that Owusu will literally be one of the last players whose fate is decided. His performance in camp and the preseason will be extremely important in determining his role in 2013.
Eric Page, No Experience, Last Season: Injured in Devner
There have been reports that Page is in the mix on special teams as a kick and punt returner, and this could be huge for his prospects of making the roster. He’s apparently fully healthy after an ACL injury last year, and he had an extremely productive college career.
The Good: Page proves he’s healthy and capable to handle the brutal nature of being a possession receiver in the NFL, and chips in on special teams enough to make the roster.
The Bad: Page fails to make the roster.
The Likely: Page seems like a practice squad candidate who could crack the roster if no one else emerges, or should the Buccaneers look favorably on his return skills.
Derek Hagan has the experience to stand out in this group, but the others are mostly unknown at this point. But with uncertainty after the top four, there are opportunities to be had for this group of aspiring Bucs.