If the Bucs have any shot at a playoff run in 2016, it will be due to the growth of quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston was outstanding as a rookie in protecting the football, but year 2 needs to lead to more points on the scoreboard, and more wins to account for. Winston has shed a bunch a weight this off-season, but what might be his greatest help in achieving this growth will be the weapons he has surrounding him.
Recently, the nerds at Pro Football Focus crunched the numbers of all the receiving corps for each of the 32 teams in the NFL. The receiving corps are a combination of receivers and tight ends. Perhaps a surprise to some, the Buccaneers' receiving corps ranked within the top 10.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected starters: WR Vincent Jackson, WR Mike Evans, WR Louis Murphy, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Key depth: WR Kenny Bell, WR Donteea Dye, WR Adam Humphries, TE Luke Stocker, TE Brandon Myers
Key stat: Both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson averaged more than 16.0 yards per catch in 2015.
As quarterback Jameis Winston grows, his ability to throw the ball to two big, talented receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans should be huge for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense. 19th and 23rd in terms of 2015 overall grades, respectively, Evans and Jackson have impressed in consecutive seasons. Jackson struggled with injury in 2015, catching just 33 passes, but averaged 16.5 yards per reception to make the most of his targets. Evans averaged 16.3 yards per reception himself, racking up 1,206 yards in his second NFL season. He’ll want to improve on finding the end zone more in 2016—he recorded 12 touchdowns in 2014, but just three last season. Dropped passes is another area that Evans needs to mend, with 15 drops from 89 catchable targets in 2015. If he can fix those issues, he can really impress in 2016.
I tend to constantly have issues with Pro Football Focus. I mean, for a website devoted to numbers over film, how do they flat out ignore the Bucs' leading receiver at tight end in 2015 with Cameron Brate's emergence? Austin Seferian-Jenkins may be listed as a starter above, but the fact is that Brate has become more reliable for both Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter, which may lead to him having the upper hand in the Bucs' offense.
There may be some concerns relating to the Bucs' receiving corps:
- Will father-time finally get to Vincent Jackson?
- Who takes a stranglehold of the starting slot receiver role?
- Will Kenny Bell be able to match his performance in shorts and t-shirts when the pads go on?
- Will Louis Murphy get locked in any more museums?
- Will Austin Seferian-Jenkins get injured?
- Will Austin Seferian-Jenkins learn the playbook?
- Will Austin Seferian-Jenkins tweet anymore "yo mama" jokes?
- Will Austin Seferian-Jenkins threaten anymore Bucs' fans?
In all, the Bucs are as deep as any team in football when it comes to tight end. If Mike Evans matures mentally, he will be a top 5 receiver in football. Also, while PFF focuses on the WRs and TEs, one of the Bucs' biggest threats in the pass game will continue to be RB Charles Sims. Yes, the Bucs could still use another playmaker at receiver in the future, but they have done a good job of surrounding their young quarterback with the pieces to make him successful, and possibly the success to make a run at the playoffs this year.
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