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Mike Williams, Bucs receivers should expect to play multiple roles

One unit that will be closely examined during Bucs training camp is the wide receivers.

The complexion of this young group of players has changed markedly with the addition of veteran Pro Bowl selection Vincent Jackson, something that will leave players fighting for fewer opportunities and roster spots.

Knowing this, we recently asked Tampa Bay receivers coach P.J. Fleck what the insertion of Jackson means for Mike Williams, the team's leading receiver in his first two seasons as a pro.

Interestingly, while addressing Williams' role, Fleck also shed some light on the team's plans for the receivers in general.

Whereas Williams was the so-called split end in former offensive coordinator Greg Olson's scheme (one based largely on former coach Jon Gruden's offense), the Bucs now intend to use him in multiple roles. As the split end, Williams was almost always lined up wide on the weak side, opposite the tight end. But Fleck said Williams and others will be asked to be more diverse in the new offense.

"A guy like Mike can play inside or outside – wherever we want him to," Fleck said.

This is where the conversation turned toward the overall effort to mix things up.

"The great thing about this offense is that everyone can play every position," Fleck said. "So when you're thinking about the X (split end), Z (flanker), and all these different (positions), they all can play every position.

"That's how we're going about teaching our system and our scheme. Everyone learns the same fundamentals, and then we go right into the scheme and everyone is learning as a whole. It's not, 'Hey, you're just learning X or you're just learning Z.' That gives us the flexibility to move everyone around."

There's no right or wrong way. But no matter how a team goes about this, flexibility is sometimes necessary. Gruden was a stickler for using certain receivers only at their assigned positions in his very structured offense. Remember the uproar he created when he refused to use Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant in the same package because he considered both to be split ends?

But the current staff thinks diversity is necessary. If coaches stay true to their word, you could conceivably see Jackson lined up in the slot. You could see Williams as a flanker, a position occupied almost exclusively by Arrelious Benn in 2011. And a guy like Dez Briscoe, who has seamlessly played all positions in the past, should fit right in.

One of the ways this could be advantageous is that it allows coaches to move receivers around based on matchups. Depending on the opposing defense, there might be times when it's beneficial to use certain receivers in certain roles.

Fleck is confident the tactic will pay off.

"I think you always have to have flexibility in your offense," he said. "That's what's hopefully going to make us pretty hard to defend."