Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Bucs' Adam Humphries proves big plays can come in small packages

TAMPA — He looks like he stands about 5-foot nothing. He looks like he weighs about 120 pounds. His aw-shucks smile and baby face seem more suited for someone who should be wearing overalls with straw between his teeth and a fishing pole on his shoulder.

When you look at Adam Humphries, you don't think, "football player."

Until you watch him play. Then you can't imagine him doing anything else.

This kid can flat-out play this game. All you have to do is go back and watch the tape of Friday night's preseason game between his Bucs and the Browns.

Clutch catches. Dependable blocks. And an electrifying punt return. All sparked Tampa Bay's big first half and solidified Humphries' spot as a key contributor to the Bucs.

"It's important to contribute to this team in any way I can," Humphries said. "I'm going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do and give my all, give great effort."

And to think, a year ago at this time he was nowhere close to making the roster. What else is new for Humphries?

The Spartanburg, S.C., native was hardly recruited in high school. Even at Clemson, he waited in line behind future NFLers such as Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins and high school teammate Charone Peake. In fact, some wondered if Clemson recruited him just to get Peake.

But like he has done his entire career, Humphries did it all. He caught passes, played special teams, returned kicks. Made himself invaluable.

He didn't get invited to the NFL draft combine. He didn't get drafted. He signed with the Bucs as a free agent, but it wasn't until the fourth preseason game that he secured a spot on the team. He caught 27 passes as a rookie for 260 yards and a touchdown.

These days, the 23-year-old not only is on the team, he is a favorite target of quarterback Jameis Winston and one of the first names that comes up with teammates when they talk about how the game is supposed to be played — on the practice field, in the meeting room, in the gym and, especially, on the field.

So dependable is Humphries that coach Dirk Koetter waited about four minutes into training camp to name him the team's No. 3 receiver behind Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. And on Friday night, Humphries showed why he deserves such a spot in Koetter's heart. And in the offense.

He caught two big passes on the Bucs' touchdown drive on their second possession. The first was a 23-yarder on second and 8. The other was a 16-yarder on third and 5 that kept the drive alive. Three plays later, the Bucs scored a touchdown.

"That's what he does — he just makes plays," Winston said. "He's amazing. We are so blessed to have him on this football team."

Humphries was hardly finished. Just four plays after Tampa Bay's first touchdown, after the defense held Cleveland to a three-and-out, Humphries fielded a booming punt, cut to his right, then burned his way past every Browns player as if they were standing still for a 73-yard touchdown.

"The last time I returned one was in college against Louisville," Humphries said. "Obviously there were some great blocks on the return, so you have to give it up to the whole team."

Humphries' return gave Tampa Bay a 17-3 lead in what turned out to be a half the team desperately needed.

After two dud performances by the first team in the first two preseason games, the Bucs finally looked regular-season ready Friday night. True, it came against a pitiful Browns team, but still.

Winston was so good (16-for-25, 259 yards, two touchdowns) that the Bucs didn't bother to put him out there for the second half as originally planned. Mike Evans was a beast with five catches for 115 yards. The defense was swarming. Heck, even rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo looked like he knew what he was doing.

The Bucs looked like a pretty good football team. Right in the middle of it was Humphries.

A pretty good football player.

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