TAMPA – The Buccaneers were a team made up almost exclusively of possession receivers last year. Really, if you look at the paltry yards-after-the-catch numbers they produced there’s no other way to describe them.
Mike Evans? After dropping a league-high 11 passes in 2015, Evans did a much better job of simply catching the ball in 2016, dropping just seven catchable passes, according to SportingCharts.com. But he didn’t do much with it after he caught it.
Then again neither did anyone else with the Bucs.
Evans gained an average of just 1.8 yards after each catch last year, the second-worst mark in the league among wide receivers, while Cameron Brate averaged just 2.4 yards after each catch, the worst mark among all tight ends in the league.
The end result saw Bucs pass catchers gain just 1,433 yards after the catch, 29th overall in the league, for an average of 4.04 yards. Only the Texans pass catchers, who were saddled with having to catch balls from Brock Osweiler did worse, gaining just 3.85 yards after the catch.
Those poor after the catch numbers, though, are one fo the big reasons why the Bucs made a point of adding speed to their receiving corps this offseason, but the addition of veteran DeSean Jackson and rookie Chris Godwin alone won’t fix the problem.
That’s because the real root of the Bucs poor YAC performance last year lies in the play of quarterback Jameis Winston, who simply needs to do a better job of delivering the ball in a manner that allows for more yards after the catch.
That means delivering the ball on time and in stride so that the pass catcher doesn’t have to slow down or adjust to the ball before catching it, and the Bucs have come up with a unique monitoring system that they believe will help them improve in that area.
Every throw made in practice not just by Winston but all the Bucs quarterbacks this year is being graded in terms of its accuracy with a subjective grade of either “Precise,’’ “Accurate’’ or “Off.’’
Precise means it’s a virtually perfect throw, one the receiver has to make no adjustment to or virtually no adjustment to at all. Accurate is one that may require some adjustment but doesn’t necessarily slow the receiver down and Off is, well off. It’s simply a bad throw.
“Our goal is to turn the receiver into a ball carrier,’’ Bucs quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian said. “And we give (the quarterbacks) immediate feedback on it, on a daily basis.
“It’s become something that the quarterbacks refer to every day in our daily meeting. It’s the first thing we start with. They want to know how they compared to the previous day, so it’s a good thing.’’
It sounds like what the Bucs have done is add a little more competitiveness to the daily grind of practice and with so much awareness now on delivering the ball accurately, you would have to think that will be an area in which the Bucs will improve this year. Obviously, they couldn’t get much worse.