With just under eight Sunday’s to go till opening week, we look under the hood of the 2019 Buccaneers to see what the new staff is driving. Training camp kicks off on July 26thso now is the time to get a look at camp battles and new additions. Additionally, we will get a peek at the new schemes presented by Coach Bruce Arians and Coach Todd Bowles. So, while it could be daunting to try and cover all positions and schemes in one article, let’s focus on the skill positions. More specifically and arguably the most talented positions on the roster. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
In 2018, Tampa Bay produced four Wide Receivers who were in the top 35 at the position in receiving yards. As well as four players in the top 40 in terms of touchdowns. Combine that with a “no risk it, no biscuit” mentality and a gun-slinging quarterback, it’s safe to assume the Buccaneers are going to air it out in 2019. With that being said, let’s get the obvious locks for 2019 at both positions.
The Sure Things
Mike Evans has already broken the franchise records for receiving Touchdowns and it only took five seasons to do so. He is also the franchise leader for receiving yards (6,103). Entering his sixth year as a Buccaneer he is now 46 receptions from breaking James Wilders franchise record of 430. Evans is a lock for now and contractually for another five seasons. But let’s be real. Mike Evans is a Buccaneer for life!
Chris Godwin is the clear number two on this team. His rookie season ended with a bang on a 50-yard bomb from Jameis to beat the rival Saints in the closing minutes. His sophomore season did not disappoint either. With a stat line of 59/842/7, Chris Godwin established himself as a favorite to take some of the pressure Evans. Already identified by his coaches as the player who fits Larry Fitzgerald’s role best, it’s exciting to think what Godwin may accomplish when fully developed.
As we just mentioned previously, the Bucs employed four Wide Receivers who produced top 30-40 numbers for the position. Two of them were Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries. Both are now ex-members of the Buccaneers and have left a total of 179 targets to be distributed among the 2019 receiving core. Desean never seemed to gel with Jameis, but had spectacular chemistry with backup QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The deep ball was (Jackson’s) calling card, but for some reason, he only clicked with Fitzpatrick on occasion.
Looking at the ascension of Adam Humphries was something to marvel at. Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, Humphries was given a shot at Bucs rookie camp and man, did he take advantage. After signing a three year $1.57 Million dollar contract that season, Humphries proceeded to to show why he made the team. Every season, his stats improved across the board. In his contract year of 2018, he closed the season as 33rd in the NFL for receiving yards, 24th in receptions and tied for 40th in receiving Touchdowns. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.
With that type of production vacated, it’s time to look hard at the new crop and see who can fill the void left by Jackson and Humphries.
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Coming in first by seniority is 2018 fifth-round draft choice, Justin Watson out of Pennsylvania. The Ivy League standout was a popular choice for the 2018 fan faithful as the guy to provide some depth to the position. That was ultimately overshadowed by Adam Humphries continued ascension. With Humphries out of the picture, will the Penn Quaker show what he’s made of? After three consecutive seasons of 1000 yards receiving and averaging 10 TD’s in college, there appears to be some promise.
Moving over to Free Agency, Breshad Perriman was added to the roster in early March. Considered a burner, he was originally drafted by the Ravens in 2015 but just could not stay healthy. A decent rookie season, but not one that justifies his first-round draft capital. It wasn’t until late in the 2018 season with the Browns that Perriman flashed some potential. Coincidentally, his profile aligns well with what the Bucs hoped to get out of Desean. Not a big-time receptions leader but has the ability to stretch the field which complements well to Evans and Godwin’s play style.
Closing the loop with OTA camp darling, Scott Miller. This is exactly where you want to get, your name on coaches minds as a rookie. Specifically as a sixth-round draft asset. We just talked about the speed with Perriman, but Miller is easily in the camp of making burnt toast out of defenders. Listed at only 5’9″ 174lbs, miller posted a blazing 4.33 second 40 at his Pro day. During his career at Bowling Green, he also amassed eye-popping stats for his size.
Per Pro-Football statistics:
Not to leave out familiar names like Bob Wilson and a lesser-known rookie in Anthony Johnson, but their climb is going to be steep.
This is dominated by two guys and it won’t change without injury or something catastrophic. OJ Howard is the best talent on the field. Even more than Evans in my opinion. The notion that Tight Ends usually peak in their mid to late 20’s is nice to hear with Howard sitting at age 24. Already considered one of the best at the position playing today, his experience and confidence continues to soar.
For Tight Ends who played more than 10 games, Howard had the highest yards per game average in the league. Howard also was tied for seventh in touchdowns even after only playing ten games. Even in third and long plays, I’d expect to see Howard on the field. He is match up nightmare for defenders.
Cameron Brate is no slouch either. Highly considered to be Jameis Winston’s favorite target in 2016, he bursts on to the scene with eight touchdowns. Not bad for the undrafted free agent out of Harvard. Subsequently, he was rewarded with a five-year contract in 2018. Brate will pair with Howard to form one of the top tight end duos the league will see.
Based on their profiles and experience, I think the depth chart will end up like this:
- WR1: Mike Evans
- WR2: Chris Godwin
- 3 Wide: Evans, Godwin Perriman
- 4 Wide: Evans, Godwin, Perriman, Watson
- Rotating Slot Personnel: Godwin, Miller, Watson
There will inevitably be changes based on weekly matchups and performances in practice. As well as in the classroom. I’d expect Bobo and Miller to handle Kick Return duties and Watson to spell Evans from time to time. That being said, a lot is going to happen during training camp. Keep your eyes glued to this group of studs. They won’t disappoint and could produce the best positional core in the entire league. They’re THAT good.