Bucs offense showing more of two-TE package
TAMPA -- In NFL parlance, the offensive grouping is called "12 personnel."
The NFL tags its offensive looks with a two-digit number by counting the running backs and tight ends -- a formation with one back, two tight ends and two receives is called "12 personnel."
A year ago, with injuries putting all but one tight end (rookie Tim Wright) on injured reserve, the Bucs rarely went with two tight ends, lining up that way on less than 10 percent of their offensive snaps, according to FootballOutsiders.com. Since then, the Bucs drafted Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, signed free agent Brandon Myers and got back a healthy Luke Stocker, who missed last year with injury.
As a result, the Bucs have shown off their two-TE look in preseason -- on 32 percent of their snaps in two preseason games, well above the NFL's overall average of 21 percent. The versatility of the personnel group -- tight ends can act as run-blockers or pass-catchers from the same look -- suits the Bucs' offensive talent well.
"It allows your offense to do a lot of different things from a lot of different formations. It makes a defense play honest," Stocker said Tuesday. "They have a hard time following tendencies for the offense when you have two tight ends in there, because there are so many different things you can do from there."
The size on the field if the Bucs have tight ends Seferian-Jenkins (6-5) and Wright (6-4) lined up with receivers Vincent Jackson (6-5) and rookie Mike Evans (6-5) would create mismatches against nearly any defense. The top four tight ends have helped each other in preseason competition, making a case for the Bucs to carry four instead of just three, as some NFL teams do.
"Everybody's trying to play their best ball and we're all feeding off each other," Stocker said. "As a unit, we're all pretty tight. We cheer for each other. We all want to see each other do well."
Myers, who has 120 catches in the last two seasons, said the tight ends are excited about the role they can play in the offense, both in blocking for the running game and being a prominent part of the passing attack.
"Competition brings the best out of everybody," Myers said. "Everybody in there is competing for a spot, but at the same time, we're helping each other out. We're talking about things, trying to improve as a group. We have a lot of guys who can make a lot of plays and do a lot of special things down the field. I definitely think it's a strength to our team to have guys who can help in the run game, pass protection and the passing game as well."
Smith talked Monday about the depth he has at tight end and the difficult challenges that he'll face in deciding how many he can keep as part of next week's final cut to a 53-man roster.
"As far as the numbers at tight end, you can count on four, easily, right now," Smith said. "I think we have four on our roster that will play in the league, somewhere. Hopefully here."