Bucs Options at Slot Receiver
By Will DeHaan
You can tell how deep it is in the off season by the amount of Buccaneers news being occupied by the free falling Josh Freeman. Bucs news is becoming harder to come by, so let’s jump into some speculation about the depth chart, which of course is still officially unavailable.
Perhaps one of the only remaining stories of intrigue is the competition at wide receiver. Light and Lovie certainly grabbed enough competition while overhauling the position, but it seemingly remains entirely open to whoever can step up and grab that third receiving spot. We’ll undoubtedly see McCown throwing to new “Dunkaneer” Mike Evans and his elder clone and Buccaneers staple Vincent Jackson, but as of now, there is no clear winner to line up alongside these two power forward-sized receivers.
Here’s a brief look at the options:
Drafted in the 6th round of the draft, Herron is described as a speedster who plays bigger than his height at 5-9. From the looks of it, Herron would be an exciting guy in Tedford’s ‘speed in space’ offensive description. Herron caught 72 passes for 937 yards in his final season at Wyoming. Herron has also gone on record saying he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder, hopefully that energy helps him win a contributing spot in this receiving corps.
Murphy has seen time playing for Raiders, Panthers, and most recently the Giants. The former Giant only had 6 grabs for 37 yards in 2013. His most productive season was in 2010 when he accumulated career highs of 41 receptions and 609 yards. Since 2010, however, Murphy has hardly produced, amassing just over 600 in the past 3 seasons. Perhaps Murphy can return to his 2010 form and produce similar numbers from the slot. Of note, Murphy made a bold claim a while back during a radio interview on WDAE-AM 620 saying he could beat Olympian teammate running back Jeff Demps in a race. Jeff Demps runs a sub 4.3 40 yard dash.
Hawkins appears to have been a depth signing, having never substantially produced in his 6 seasons in the NFL. He’s accumulated a total of 771 yards in that time, with 470 of those yards coming in 2011. Hawkins played at Cal under Jeff Tedford, which will help him secure a roster spot. I just don’t see him beating out the promising speedster in Herron or the more productive veteran in Louis Murphy.
Another speed oriented receiver boasting a 4.3 40 yard dash out of college. Owusu has held onto a spot with the Bucs since 2012 despite facing several injuries and a lack of production. Owusu is surely feeling pressure to perform to keep a roster spot, hopefully the fire lit under him can lead to a productive year in the slot.
An undrafted rookie from Florida noted for his speed, Patton is likely in the mix for return duties. If Patton remains a Buccaneer I don’t anticipate he’ll see much time as receiver, but as a returner.
Gettis came in on a tryout during the recent minicamp and ended up officially a Buccaneer. Signing Gettis leads me to believe that perhaps the Bucs aren’t fully sold on any of the options above. Gettis accumulated 508 yards in 2010 with Carolina, and was then riddled with injury. Can Gettis finally return from injury?
Streeter is another “Dunkaneer” at 6-5. Height is clearly coveted in the Buccaneers offense where it appears Light, Lovie, and Tedford are trying to make a basketball team into an army of pass catchers. Streeter finished college in Miami, catching 46 passes for 811 yards (a nice 17.6 yard average) in 2011. Since then, he has yet to catch an NFL ball. With Jackson, Evans, Seferian-Jenkins, and Tim Wright all satisfying the giant receivers need, I don’t see Streeter as a Buccaneer in the future. The “speed-in-space” requirement is yet to be officially occupied. I predict the faster guys taking up the bottom of the depth chart, but another athletic option at 6-5 doesn’t displease me one bit.
We know Eric Page as the punt returner. I don’t see Page becoming much of a threat in the passing game, but he’ll most likely keep a roster spot unless someone out returns him in practice.
Not mentioned: Skye Dawson, Quinton Payton, Russell Shepard
An entertaining possibility, though unlikely, is Charles Sims, Jeff Demps, and Tim Wright taking some snaps from the slot. Even still, the Bucs would need to deem someone the slot receiver – I think the job is Robert Herron’s to lose.