TAMPA — With the NFL trading deadline fast approaching on Tuesday, it might appear the Bucs could use another veteran receiver.
Vincent Jackson is on injured reserve with an ACL injury and it's uncertain if he will be recalled. Louis Murphy, who began workouts two weeks ago in hopes of being activated from the physically unable to perform list, suffered a setback unrelated to his ACL injury.
Certainly, there are pass catchers who are likely to be dangled by teams out of contention. The 49ers would probably love to unload Torrey Smith. Maybe the Bears could be persuaded to deal Alshon Jeffery or the Jets would part with Brandon Marshall for a fifth- or sixth-round pick.
But all of that sounds more like fantasy football than what is likely to take place. Barring a deal that presents itself at the last minute, the chances aren't good that the Bucs swing a trade for another receiver.
What does that mean? Well, for one, Mike Evans needs to stay healthy. Coach Dirk Koetter has done a good job of moving Evans around to prevent defenses from taking him out of the game plan.
The team also will have to develop some production from receivers such as Cecil Shorts, Russell Shepard and Freddie Martino. And of course, Adam Humphries and tight end Cameron Brate have to become a bigger part of the passing game.
As for needing someone to stretch the field vertically, the Bucs could activate Donteea Dye from the practice squad once he works himself into football shape.
IT BEGAN WITH THE RAIDERS: If you want to trace the beginning of the Bucs glory days, you have to remember when the Raiders visited Tampa on Nov. 10, 1996. The night before, there was a big boxing match between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A group of Raiders players watched the fight, which began late on the eve of the game.
The Bucs were 1-8 in the first year under Tony Dungy. Raiders kicker Cole Ford missed a chip shot 23-yard field goal that would've won the game with 5 seconds left in regulation. Bucs running back Mike Alstott had 54 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving to set up Michael Husted's winning field goal in overtime.
With the victory, the Bucs won five of their last eight games to end the season and were on their way. Koetter's team can only hope a win today over the Raiders will spark a similar turnaround.
MAN OF MANY HATS: If you're wondering why the Bucs don't just make Shepard the No. 2 receiver, consider his value to the team is also as its best player on all special teams. Therefore, Koetter has limited Shepard to 30 snaps on offense. He played 28 offensive snaps against the 49ers on offense last Sunday and 17 on special teams.
"We've got to be careful," Koetter said. "Somewhere around 30 reps is probably about right on offense. I mean, that's exactly how we say it in the room: be careful."