Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Underwood, Ogletree battle for Bucs No. 3 receiver

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TAMPA — Last season, after merely trying to make the Bucs, Tiquan Underwood earned a promotion to No. 3 receiver behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

So Underwood understands his current situation. Just as he took someone's job in 2012, Kevin Ogletree is attempting to take his.

It makes coach Greg Schiano smile: an unsettled position with two viable candidates who have incentive to outwork the other.

"(Ogletree) has an opportunity to play a big part," he said. "But if I'm Tiquan Underwood, I'm saying that opportunity's mine."

Neither is afraid of a rivalry.

Last year, Underwood was released by the Bucs late in preseason, re-signed two weeks later and carved out a role. Ogletree played four seasons for a Cowboys team rich in pass-catching talent, including receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten. Ogletree became expendable, and he signed for two years and $2.6 mil­lion with Tampa Bay.

"Year in and year out, it's always going to be a fight," Underwood, 26, said. "A year ago, when I came to this organization, not a lot of people knew who I was. Guys had been drafted by this organization, so I was just fighting to make a name for myself. The second go-round, again, I'm in a fight … for that No. 3 spot. But competition brings out the best in players."

Like Underwood, Ogletree, 25, seeks sustained success.

"He's been in the league four years, and this is his second contract," said Bucs receivers coach John Garrett, who was Dallas' tight ends coach last season. "That's when you make that big jump to really establish yourself as an established pro. This is a big year for him. And you always have to prove yourself each day."

There are many training camp practices remaining and four preseason games to be played, giving Underwood and Ogletree ample opportunities to make plays. But one factor won't be obvious to the untrained eye.

The Bucs seek something very specific in their No. 3 receiver: an ability to, well, do it all.

"Those third and fourth receivers have to know all the (receiver) positions and be able to make plays in all the spots as an outside receiver, as a single receiver and as a slot receiver," Garrett said. "That's the goal: to have complete versatility where you can mix and match three or four guys and put them all in different spots. That way, you (show) less tendencies (to the defense)."

Already during training camp, the Bucs have endeavored to use Jackson in a multitude of ways, including in the slot. That gives the Pro Bowl receiver more room to work and a bigger menu of routes from which to choose.

That's why the No. 3 receiver is more than just a slot receiver.

"I can play outside and play inside," Ogletree said. "I think that helps when you're thinking about matchups. When you have great receivers like Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, you can (create) an advantage for our offense."

Underwood also knows each receiver position, putting him on a somewhat even playing field. Ultimately, playmaking will separate the two. But their ability to adapt to changing demands will play an important role, too.

While it plays out, Schiano, for whom competition is a must, will sit back and enjoy the ride.

"What we have," he said, "is a great competition for that third receiver spot."

In other competition

Brian Leonard, seeking to be the third-down back, impresses. 3C

The Sapp report

For the Times' Warren Sapp Hall of Fame coverage, including stories, photos and video, see tampabay.com/topics/specials/warren-sapp.page.

Coming Saturday

A look at Sapp: his childhood, his days with the Hurricanes, Bucs and Raiders and his post-football career — yes, including Dancing with the Stars.

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Published: 11/19/17