There is always competition at most positions in every NFL off season and then, training camp. Teams are always looking to get younger and cheaper (under the salary cap) and the recently completed draft is part of that process.
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have a luxury right now at the receiver position. They have two legitimate Pro Bowl players in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson that are the key components to the pass game. And, a year ago, rookie Chris Godwin developed into a go to wide out or slot receiver in Dirk Koetter’s offense.
Also, included in the mix is veteran Adam Humprhries, who has built a career out of being that slot receiver and underneath routes, as a favorite target of QB Jameis Winston for the last three years. And, the Bucs have a mix of other young receivers who were around in 2017 and one that they drafted this year, too.
So the logical question as the summer unfolds, who will be the “odd man out” come this September.
First, the Bucs held an OTA on Thursday, and one of those young guys who is emerging is former FSU WR Bobo Wilson. Wilson (above) was an undrafted player who had a good preseason in 2017, but ultimately was cut and brought back to the practice squad.
He’s a former teammate of Winston’s at FSU, and eventually, he battled his way onto the active roster and caught a touchdown pass in the week 16 game at Carolina. And, he’s a player that is also standing out to coach Dirk Koetter at the moment.
“Yeah, Bobo’s having one of the best offseasons of anybody. I said at the end of last year he was one of the most improved players. Two guys, receiver-wise, that stick out almost every day are Bobo Wilson and Freddie Martino. They’re going with the second group because we’ve got four guys going with the first group. So they get to go with Fitz [Ryan Fitzpatrick] and with Griff [Ryan Griffin], whoever’s working the second quarterback that day, and they’re getting a lot of balls thrown to them.”
Koetter continued, “Bobo has gone from a guy that could only play one position to a guy that could play all three, which helps his chances. He’s just become so much more coachable. Part of that is knowing what you’re doing, it makes it easier to play fast, and he has no problem playing fast.”
Koetter mentioned veteran Freddy Martino, who has been on and off the Bucs roster over the past four years, knows the system and has 13 career catches in 22 career games. However, he may be caught up in that numbers game, eventually, too.
And now, Tampa Bay has also brought back St. Pete native speedster WR Bernard Reedy, who has been on their active roster as a kick returner and extra receiver over the last two seasons. However, he was the 2017 odd man out during the season and was released. He eventually got picked up by the Patriots, and he returned kicks for them at the end of the year.
However, New England did not re-sign Reedy. So, he’s back where he knows the offense, and they know him, and is battling for a spot.
And finally, a newcomer in rookie Ivy League draft pick speedy Justin Watson of Penn was taken in the fifth round in April. One of his specialties is returning kicks, also. Watson would also have the chance to be on the Bucs practice squad, like Wilson last year, for 2018.
You simply cannot keep everyone, and whether it’s the veteran Humphries or youngsters like Wilson, Reedy and now, Watson, the battle will be on, and there are “not enough chairs, when the music stops,” and final cuts come.
Still, it’s a good problem at this point for Koetter and the Bucs to have.
Gameday- Bucs searching for win in New York
Who: Bucs (3-6) at Giants (2-7)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Spread: Giants by 2 1/2 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Here’s what to watch:
Bucs Must be better in Red Zone
There is no disputing of the Buccaneers move the football between the 20 yard lines last week to the tune of 500 yards of total offense. There’s also no disputing that the Bucs were 0 – 5 in the red zone on scoring points and lost 16 – 3.
Tampa Bay ran 12 plays last week in the red zone and had -8 yards to show for them. That has to be better against a Giant defense that has been vulnerable. Some of that is the fault of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (above), who has five turnovers in the last two Bucs games, and two of those were inside the opponent’s 20 last week.
Further, in their last three games the Bucs are 27th in red zone touchdown percentage converting on just 41.6% of them.
It’s Not the Only key for the Buccaneers offense, but if they get inside the 20 yard line, it’s a big one.
Pressure Eli Manning
One area where the Buccaneers have to have an impact if they want to win is putting pressure on Eli Manning. He has been knocked around like a pinata this season, as the Giants have given up 3.6 sacks per game so far this year. That’s 31st in the league.
Their protection was better in the Monday night 27-23 win over the 49ers, where Manning was only sacked once.
Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has registered eight sacks so far this season in nine games and is anxious to have a chance to hit Eli Manning for the first time in his career.
If Manning consistently gets time to throw, the Buccaneers are going to be in big trouble.
The Buccaneers have been horrible in this category with just 6 takeaways so far in 9 games. That is 31st in the NFL trailing only San Francisco with five. Also the Buccaneers turnover differential is the worst in the NFL at – 19.
Now, the Giants aren’t much better. In fact they have only 9 takeaways on the season, but their turnover margin is just – 1.
It’s safe to say then if either team can take it away two or maybe three times in this game, it will likely decide who wins.
Final injury updates for Bucs and Jaguars Sunday games
As the Buccaneers get set to head to New York to play the Giants and the Jaguars are preparing to host the Steelers Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the injuries in those two games. (Reminder the Dolphins have their bye week for this weekend.)
Here’s a look at the latest:
For the Bucs, there Friday injury report has defensive names littered all over it and the news is not good for some of them.
After we were told by a source that Lavonte David was going to try to play Sunday, he apparently was overruled by the training staff and head coach Dirk Koetter, etc, and the Pro Bowl linebacker will be inactive with his sprained knee. Likewise, Vinny Curry will miss another game at defensive end, his fourth in the last five with a sprained ankle.
It’s the same situation with second year safety Justin Evans, who will miss the game with an injured toe suffered in the game with Washington last week. Defensive end Carl Nassib, who’s been a pleasant find off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season, is questionable with a left elbow injury suffered agains the Redskins, although he was able to practice on Friday.
The Bucs also list their receiver Chris Godwin as questionable with an ankle injury, and another important injury is starting center Ryan Jensen, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. If Jensen is unable to play Sunday, then Ali Marpet, starting at left guard this year, but who played center a lot of 2017, would likely take his place.
The Buccaneers opponents, the Giants, had four players on their injury list this week, but all of them are now slated to play in the game on Sunday.
For the Jaguars match-up, they have two significant injuries to update, starting linebacker Telvin Smith was able to practice this week with his shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, but expected to play against Pittsburgh. There is concern for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with a triceps injury and he is also listed as questionable. Dareus will likely be a game time decision.
Defensive back A.J. Bouye has been bothered by a calf injury, but he is also expected to play after being able to practice Thursday and Friday and listed as questionable. Coach Doug Marrone also announced that tackle Erik Flowers, who left last week’s game with tendonitis in his knee will start on the makeshift Jaguars line.
As we wrote earlier in the week, Jacksonville placed Center Brandon Linder on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in last week’s lost Indianapolis.
The Steelers have no significant injuries, despite Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner both being on the injured list,. They will both be playing on Sunday. Connor was a much bigger concern having been in concussion protocol earlier after suffering one in the win last Thursday night over Carolina.
However, he cleared the protocol and was able to fully practice this week.
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul ready to go get Eli Manning Sunday
It’s one of those juicy subplots that we see all the time now in professional sports. A player gets to go against his old team and show them that maybe they made a mistake and letting him go. In this case on Sunday, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will battle against his old team, the New York Giants. And that means, against a lot of former teammates.
One in specific, quarterback Eli Manning, maybe less than thrilled.
JPP has been one of the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL over the last decade, nevertheless, the Giants elected to trade into the Buccaneers back in March.
So when the organization that you won the Superbowl with in 2011 has decided to move on without you, there’s naturally going to be some questions from the media about you playing against them for the first time. And, you going against their borderline Hall of Fame signal-caller, Manning.
Such was the case Wednesday in the Buccaneers locker room prior to practice:
"It's been checked off since I left there, and I'm pretty sure they know I'm bringing the house down. At the end of the day, it is what it is. I just know once I get there I'm going to be going 100 percent."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 14, 2018
Pierre-Paul has already energized the Bucs pass rush and has eight sacks in the first nine games. This includes a streak of five consecutive games with a sack earlier this season. That is the first time since Simeon rice in 2002 that a Buccaneer had five straight games with a sack in a single season.
And coming into Sunday at The Meadowlands he has 66 1/2 of them in his career and would love nothing better than to take down the leader of the G-Men.
And while the Giants did look better on offense in their Monday night comeback win over the 49ers, it has clearly been a struggle for them to pass protect, specifically, throughout the early part of this season.
Pierre-Paul has to have been salivating watching their offensive line whiff and get run over in game after game.
Further, Buccaneer defenders like pro bowlers Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, plus players like Will gholston Brent Grimes and young safety Justin Evans went against Manning in a Tampa Bay’s win last September against the Giants.
A game that the Buccaneers squeaked out 25-23. A game where is Eli Manning threw it 49 times and wasn’t sacked once by the Buccaneers front seven. That’s a pass rush that was last in the NFL in sacks a year ago.
However, that was 2017. And, circling back to Pierre-Paul, he hopes to change that starting Sunday.
And, while it will be weird for him to dress in the visiting dressing room at MetLife Stadium and stand on the visiting near sidelines, he’s ready to put all of that aside, try to help the Bucs climb off the canvas and get a win in the Big Apple.
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