Expect serious competition in re-tooled Bucs receiving corps
The Bucs have steadily added players over the past several weeks who add depth to the roster, and one area that’s been particularly true is wide receiver.
The Bucs have added two free agents, Kevin Ogletree and Steve Smith, and traded away Arrelious Benn.
They are continuing to reshape a position that was too top heavy in 2012, with standouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, but thin beyond that pair of starters.
Now, the Bucs have an intensely competitive situation among their backup receivers, with Tiquan Underwood – coming off a career year – Ogletree, Smith and others, like former Stanford standout Chris Owusu, in the mix.
Underwood, based on his performance in 2012, would be my choice to get the first crack at the slot/No. 3 receiver role. But he should see legitimate challenges from others. His speed is what will set him apart because the Bucs need more of that.
Ogletree is valuable because of his experience in the slot and his ability to help on special teams as a return man. That gives him an edge when it comes time for roster decisions both at final cuts and in terms of game day inactives.
Smith has more to prove having been largely ineffective during the past two seasons. But his resume’ is going to get him a look, his 107-catch, 1,220-yard season in 2009 being difficult to ignore. He had a disappointing end to last season with St. Louis, beginning the season as a possible starter but finishing as a healthy scratch in Week 17. How much he has left will be the primary question.
Owusu is not a player most are familiar with, but he found his way onto the field quite often late last season, despite catching just one pass for 24 yards against the Saints. Owusu has something most of these guys don’t: Blazing speed. He’s been known to run a 40-yard dash in the 4.3s, giving him a chance to become a situational threat with the Bucs if he makes the final roster. He's a guy coaches are excited about.
And here's something else to consider: The Bucs could conceivably draft a receiver later this month, though that remains to be seen.
Even if they don’t, they have the makings of a very interesting training camp at the position. Without a doubt, receiver will be a position to watch this fall.