TAMPA — They all saw this coming, the way meteorologists track hurricanes. Arrelious Benn was going to take a game by storm and leave destruction in his path.
For much of the season, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Benn was the second option to Mike Williams in what has been one of the best rookie receiver tandems in throw business.
The result: Benn had two or fewer receptions in 10 of his first 12 games for the Bucs, including getting shut out when the regular season began against Cleveland and at Carolina.
But Benn never tired of spending extra time after practice learning the difficult "Z" receiver position, which plays off the line of scrimmage on the tight end's side of the formation. And he showed flashes with a 53-yard reception at Arizona and touchdowns against Atlanta and Carolina.
But last week in Washington, D.C., playing near his hometown in front of family and friends against a Redskins franchise he grew up rooting for, Benn put on a show. He caught a season-high four passes for 122 yards, including plays of 64 and 43 yards.
"Each week I saw it coming and started building up confidence in Josh (Freeman) and building confidence they had in me as far as calling my numbers and plays for me," Benn said. "It's great. I knew it was coming. I wasn't going to get frustrated with it. I knew I was doing everything I needed to do to do my job for us to win. It came, and I'm just going to capitalize on it each week, and I'm here now."
Benn is fifth on the club with 21 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns, although twice he has been ruled down at the opponent's 1-yard line. His 16.4 average leads the team.
"This is exactly what we talked about since the day we got here, the two of us on the field, making big plays," Williams said. "I've known for a long time it was coming. He kept telling me it was coming. And (last week), he just had an unbelievable game."
Not a minute too soon, either.
With Williams drawing more double coverage, his numbers have declined as Benn's have gone up. Opponents are keeping a safety over the top of Williams, and cornerbacks are giving him only the occasional slant route.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has started to move Williams around, putting him in the slot or in motion. But Benn usually enjoys one-on-one coverage. And he's beating it.
"We kind of see the same things you do; (Benn) looks fresher," Olson said. "For whatever reason, I don't know. I don't think it's the fact he didn't have a significant role early; I just think he trains very well, takes care of his body, he's strong. But he definitely looks like he has another gear than other guys on the field right now."
And Benn has been effective as a ballcarrier. At Washington, he gained 17 yards on an end around and has averaged 5.8 yards on six carries.
"His size and his strength, that's what makes him a little intriguing in terms of designing possible run plays for him," Olson said. "We've discussed that with this guy. He has a running back type body and a physical style of running. He's got a frame (sturdy enough) that you don't worry about him running against a linebacker.
"A lot of people may not notice, but he's helped us in our run game in terms of who he's blocking. He blocks defensive ends; he blocks linebackers. He's really helped out in the running game."
According to receiver Sammie Stroughter, there's no jealously in the receivers' room at One Buc Place. "It's more like, 'Oh, you did that? Watch this,' " he said.
Benn agrees. "We definitely feed off each other. And the great thing about it is we're so young in that room and on our team … we all get along," he said. "We all love each other; we want to see each other do well."
Williams is 23, Benn 22. What they're producing as rookies has been good enough to get the Bucs to 8-5 this season. But it's hard for the Bucs not to still daydream about the future.
"We've got two legit guys, and they're explosive players," Olson said. "A lot of things have to happen. They have to stay healthy, and there are a lot of things that go into it. But yeah, when you just look at them right now, they're exciting to think about."