Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Offense Survive Without a Third Receiver?

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams (19) and tight end Luke Stocker (88) and running back Doug Martin (22) celebrate Williams

This offseason when Kevin Ogletree was signed by the Buccaneers, I’ll admit that I was hopeful that he could provide a third option for Josh Freeman in the passing game. He had shown flashes of ability in the past, and proved during camp and the preseason that he was a reliable route runner.

But if Week 1 was any indication, he’s definitely not the answer. Nor is Luke Stocker, Doug Martin, Brian Leonard, or Nate Byham. And Eric Page and Russell Shepard didn’t even see the field for any of the Buccaneers’ 67 snaps on offense.

So can the Buccaneers survive on offense with a 2-headed passing attack and a rushing game that’s not up to speed yet?

Absolutely not.

 

Aug 24, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

According to Football Outsider’s Vince Verhei, Josh Freeman was 12 of 21 on passes to Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson for a total of 201 yards and 1 touchdown. That would have been a fine day for Josh, even including the interception.

But to other receivers, Freeman was 4 0f 10 for 4 yards. Four. Four yards. One yard per catch.

And those six incompletions include drops by Kevin Ogletree and Doug Martin, who were both thought to be leading candidates for the tertiary role in the Bucs’ passing attack.

Many fans are clamoring for the return of Tiquan Underwood, but what would he have added to Sunday’s game? He clearly fell behind Ogletree during camp, meaning he would have joined Page and Shepard on the bench for the duration of the game. And he’s just as inconsistent as Ogletree, if not more inconsistent, and isn’t the same kind of route runner. Underwood is still available, meaning that none of the 31 other NFL GMs are interested in his services.

Luke Stocker was charted as being an eligible receiver on 25 plays on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus. Do you remember him ever being open, thrown at, or otherwise useful in the passing game?

If you don’t remember, don’t worry. He wasn’t ever a useful target for Josh Freeman. He was not thrown at during the game, and received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus as a receiver for his inability to get open.

If the Buccaneers are not going to spread the field and allow their young receivers to attempt to prove themselves, they’re going to be stuck with two-and-a-half receivers on the field on every play. Josh Freeman actually has the ability to make throws to covered receivers using back shoulder throws and slants.

But when he’s forced to stand in the pocket (with a fairly clear stop sign from the coaches preventing him from running) with only three receivers running routes, he’s doomed to fail. Especially when one of those receivers (Ogletree) has yet to earn Freeman’s trust, dropping multiple passes in his short time in Tampa.

The Buccaneers have very few options to change their situation at wide receiver or tight end at this point in the season. So if there is a continued hesitance to try out young receivers Eric Page and Russell Shepard (as they currently have resigned to the bench), there’s no reason to believe the Buccaneers’ passing attack has any hope of reaching its potential.

Topics: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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  • RussMillerWY

    I agree completely and can add a bit to that. On a play when Doug Wilkerson burst through the line (offsides all the way) Brian Leonard was the single back, temporarily in pass protection but looking to shift out into the left flat after chipping anybody he saw on his way. Leonard was directly in Wilkerson’s path, saw him, but continued to shift left anyway, searching for someone further down the field he could block. Why??? If I was Freeman, I’d have given him a serious chewing after that. Leonard does not yet seem to be an improvement over Blount or Ware. If anything, he looked worse than Ware as a pass blocker/receiver.

    It’s fitting that Kellen Winslow made a touchdown catch as the Jets #2 tight end. Winslow was shown the door for not being a Buccaneer Man because his oft-repaired knee simply couldn’t stand the strain of a daily practice grind and he needed more time off to rest it. This was not unprecedented, as Jon Gruden found that Joey Galloway’s frequent season-ending hamstring injuries disappeared when he gave him more time off from practice. Winslow never was a great blocker, basically useless with only one good leg. On the other hand, his body control, acrobatics and ability to get open made him the equal of Mike Williams in a receiving capacity. This aren’t the only examples of the narrow Buccaneer Man philosophy draining away talent that hasn’t been replaced yet. It’s why they’re standing still when it comes to overall improvement in spite of being in the second year of their system.

  • RussMillerWY

    Oh, forgot to mention I think they should try Page a bit more in the mix, and perhaps the lightweight pseudo-tight end, Wright, the ex-wide receiver. Even if Wright’s tiny by TE standards, if he can get separation and make a catch or two, that’d be worthwhile.