Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Saints: Why Eagles castoff Josh Huff could play big role Sunday

TAMPA — To appreciate what Bucs receiver Josh Huff could do Sunday, consider what he did last season against New Orleans.

Huff, playing for the Eagles, put his team on the scoreboard with a 41-yard score, making a leaping somersault into the end zone for his first career touchdown catch. He added a 19-yard catch to the 2-yard line that set up the go-ahead touchdown in Philadelphia's 39-17 win.

Huff, a 2014 third-round pick out of Oregon, had a career-high 76 yards on four catches and has made a bigger mark in his NFL career on kickoff returns. After four weeks on Tampa Bay's practice squad, he is scheduled to make his Bucs debut Sunday against the Saints.

"I haven't been out there with my teammates in a month, so I'm excited to get back out and get things going again," said Huff, promoted this week to replace Cecil Shorts, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury last week at San Diego.

"I feel pretty comfortable with the offense and the playbook now, and I'm just looking to fit in and make plays where I can."

That the Bucs could turn to Huff, 25, as a potential answer to a long string of injuries at receiver is only possible because he was arrested five weeks ago in New Jersey on charges of possession of marijuana and an unloaded handgun without a permit. He was promptly released by the Eagles and now has earned a second chance with Tampa.

"Josh Huff, man, he's blazing," quarterback Jameis Winston said. "(He) has a lot of abilities that would definitely add to our repertoire. (Chemistry) is getting better and better. … We've got to get that connection, to continue to work more and more, but we're looking forward to taking that challenge this week."

Huff has two kickoff returns for touchdowns in his three-year career, a 107-yard score in 2014 and a 98-yard score this year against the Vikings.

Tampa Bay ranks last in the league in kickoff returns, with a season long of 24 yards. Huff has seven returns this season, four of them longer than 24, including a 53-yarder.

"He's made explosive returns and explosive plays in this league," coach Dirk Koetter said. "He's got a nice burst, some short-area quickness, explosiveness."

The Bucs have lost veterans Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy and Shorts to major injuries, and Adam Humphries has been in concussion protocol all week and will miss Sunday's game. Finding complements to Mike Evans will fall to supporting players such as Huff, who will show how much he has picked up.

"We're going to find out, aren't we?" receivers coach Todd Monken said. "He's got some juice."

Huff has a chance to prove himself against a New Orleans team that ranks 30th in pass defense and 28th in average kickoff return allowed.

"My main thing is just to stay focused and fit in with these guys, to do what I can when my number is called," Huff said. "I'm looking forward to keeping this (four-game) win streak going and into the playoffs."

Contact Greg Auman and [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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