Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.
"I'm definitely impressed with both rookies," first-year tight ends coach Ben Steele said. "Auclair and O.J. (Howard) obviously both have made huge strides with the gap from coming from college, especially from Canada. Without a doubt, (Auclair) is one of those guys that just works super-hard. He's a natural learner, a football junkie and that helps with the transition. He still has a lot of room for improvement as everybody does in camp."
Auclair has only one catch in two preseason games for 9 yards, but has continued to develop in learning the game -- the Bucs had a draftable grade on him this spring and were pleasantly "very surprised" they were able to sign him after the draft. Auclair made a cameo in the "Hard Knocks" season opener, singing "O Canada" as part of the rookie singing tradition, with QB Jameis Winston standing with his hand on his heart and the rest of the team following suit.
Howard and Cameron Brate will be the Bucs' top two tight ends, with Luke Stocker expected to bring a physical, veteran presence to a young group. With more two-TE looks expected and strong play overall in training camp, the tight ends are making a case to have five on the 53-man roster, rather than four as the Bucs carried last season. That would likely mean Auclair, Alan Cross, Austin Johnson and Tevin Westbrook competing for the final two spots.
"We've got so much depth at tight end right now. We have a great room with a lot of competition at the top and the bottom," Steele said. "I think it's going to shake itself out. Hopefully everyone stays healthy and can compete through the end of it, but it's going to come down to the end, and right now it's pretty hard to tell. I definitely like where we're at."