Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2013 season proves lack of wide receiving depth for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Before the start of the 2013 season, I wrote that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a lack of depth among their wide receivers corps.

Now that the season is over, it’s seems as though I was right.

Vincent Jackson aside, the Bucs receiving corps was dismal. Injuries played a significant part in that, but a lack of production and unreliable young players did the Bucs no favors.

And it showed in league statistics. The Bucs were dead last in receiving yards per game with 198.8. They were 29th in the league with 267 receptions, and last in receiving yards with 3,181.

It didn’t matter who played quarterback, the Bucs wideouts were poor all season long, V-Jax aside.

Jackson caught 78 passes for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns for his second straight 1000-yard season with the Bucs. He’s an undisputed leader on the team and he continues to be an important commodity on the Bucs offense.

However, after Jackson, it was all-down hill.

Mike Williams was put on injured reserve in October with a torn hamstring, meaning he finished the season with only 22 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns while playing in only six games. After coming off a season in which he fell four yards short of a 1000-yard season, great things were expected from the Syracuse product. While his lack of production was due to injury rather than talent, his loss was felt all season as the Bucs struggled to find a reliable second receiver to compliment Jackson.

Tiquan Underwood though was certainly a useful addition. The former Rutgers player was cut in training camp in favour of Kevin Ogletree. But when Underwood resigned with the Bucs, he had quite an impact. He caught 24 passes for 440 yards along with four touchdowns, which helped offset the loss of Williams. Whether new head coach Lovie Smith will keep Underwood on the roster moving forward isn’t clear, but his performance will certainly guarantee him a job somewhere next season.

The aforementioned Ogletree was a complete and utter failure with the Bucs. He was signed to a two-year deal during free agency for $2.6 million. But he would only play four games for the Bucs before they cut him loose. In those four games he had 70 receiving yards on eight catches, one of which was a touchdown. He was plagued by drops, penalties, and just simply the lack of ability to get open. He wound up playing with the Detroit Lions for the rest of the season where he caught 13 passes for 199 yards and a score.

The other receivers the Bucs had on their roster were Chris Owusu, Skye Dawson, Eric Page, and Russell Shepard. Owusu had 114 receiving yards on 13 catches, Page had 68 on four grabs, and Dawson had two catches for 12 yards. None of the four players were valuable at the receiver’s position despite the struggles the team had.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest surprise of the year for the Bucs was the emergence of Timothy Wright. A complete unknown at the beginning of the season, Wright would wind up catching 54 passes for 571 yards with five touchdowns, turning himself into a quality tight end. When the Bucs passing game was in dire straights, often Wright would be a go-to player, as was Jackson. Wright turned himself into a legitimate threat, as he has quick speed as a tight end. Drops in the first few games plagued him, but it didn’t deteriorate him and he turned out to be an extremely valuable member of the Bucs offense. While it remains to be seen as to whether he will be the number one tight end next season, Wright has certainly forced his way to the top of the depth chart for the time being.

Wright aside, the tight end position was also a disaster. Luke Stocker has become a dud player, as he can’t stay healthy and fails to contribute when he does see the field. Tom Crabtree was valuable as a blocker but doesn’t have too much to offer in the passing game, although he caught four passes, one of which was for a touchdown during the 2013 season. Nate Byham also saw action in four games, catching three passes for 38 yards.

The Bucs have one of the top receiving tandems in the league in Jackson and Williams. The NFL saw what they were capable of last season, but they were unable to duplicate that during the 2013 campaign due to Williams’ injury, although Jackson had a standout season again.

With that in mind, the Buccaneers do not need to draft a receiver with their first round draft pick in the 2014 draft. Many mock drafts have the Bucs using the seventh overall selection on a receiver, but with many other areas of need on this team, that first round pick is better served being used elsewhere.

However, that is not to say the Bucs don’t need another receiver. They sorely lack a quality slot receiver and that’s something that needs to be addressed through either the draft or free agency.

The pieces are there in Jackson, Williams, and Wright. But three guys won’t get the job done moving forward. The Bucs need that quality slot receiver, and they also need a reliable fourth wideout to see the field and also for depth purposes.

No one knows who will be playing quarterback for the Buccaneers in 2014. But what we do know is that they need more options aside from Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to throw to.

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