Buccaneers WR depth being severely tested

Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

You could cobble together a pretty good receiving corps out of the pass catchers the Buccaneers have lost to knee injuries alone over the past few weeks of the NFL season.

Vincent Jackson (out for the year with a knee injury). Cecil Shorts (out for the year with a knee injury). Louis Murphy (out for the year with a knee injury).

Throw in Adam Humphries (out for who knows how long with a concussion) and you’ve got the makings of a mostly elderly but still formidable group that a lot of teams would love to have.

The Bucs, of course, are at the top of that list. The loss of those four players continues to test the depth of a unit that some weren’t sure was all that deep to begin with.

The Bucs, though, continue to roll with the punches. Their 28-21 victory over the Chargers was just the latest example of how their passing game continues to produce despite the losses.

With Shorts, Humphries and tight end Luke Stocker (ankle) out and the Chargers all but erasing Mike Evans (just six targets) as an option, the Bucs somehow outgained the fifth-best passing attack in the league.

While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was limited to 225 yards, the third fewest he’s thrown for this year, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 280.

He did that despite having to lean mostly on the inexperienced Freddy Martino, a recent practice-squad recall who caught four passes for 56 yards in what was easily his busiest game yet.

It will likely be more of the same this week when the Bucs take on the Saints at Raymond James Stadium and while some might see that as a concern, it seems Bucs coach Dirk Koetter does not.

Koetter isn’t about to downplay the loss of Jackson, Shorts, Murphy and Humphries, but he’s one of those who believes the Bucs receiving corps is rather deep and he’s not afraid to test the depth.

“I feel like we still have two guys on our practice squad that are ready to come up and help us at any time, and that’s Josh Huff and Donteea Dye, who played a lot of ball for us last year,’’ Koetter said.

“So I don’t think we’re in dire straits there. I think we’ll be OK and I’m proud of the way Freddy and Russell Shepard stepped up yesterday, because their roles both went way through the roof.’’

Expect that trend to continue. You can also expect to possibly see running back Charles Sims as part of the pass catching corps during this week’s game against New Orleans.

Sims has been out since Week 4 with a knee injury, but he was designated for return from Injured Reserve two weeks ago and Koetter says he expects to have him at his disposal on Sunday.

“Yeah, I would expect that,’’ Koetter said of Sims return. “There are some things, some administrative things that have to happen, but I would think that Charles has a good chance. He’s looked really good in practice.’’

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