Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Bucs’ receiver logjam makes for intense training-camp competition

At least 10 players are vying for the unit’s final one or two roster spots.
Bucs wide receiver Scotty Miller (10), hindered by turf toe for most of the 2021 season, is among a logjam of players competing for one of the receiving unit's final roster spots.
Bucs wide receiver Scotty Miller (10), hindered by turf toe for most of the 2021 season, is among a logjam of players competing for one of the receiving unit's final roster spots. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 7

TAMPA — The most riveting roster-spot battle of this sweltering Bucs training camp exists a bit beneath the depth chart’s surface.

Scroll down a few names — past Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones — and you’ll find it: a logjam of sleek, if not small, pass-catchers and punt returners vying for one of the remaining receiver jobs. Considering the Bucs generally carried six receivers on the active roster last season, the math is pretty straightforward.

At least 10 receivers vying for a pair of final-roster spots, and perhaps two practice-squad openings. Those who survive likely will have to double on special teams.

“It’s going to be tough (trimming the roster),” coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday. “It’s a lot of talent at that position, not just the four that we have, but all the other guys too. But we’ve got to see how it shakes out.”

With the preseason opener — and first round of roster cuts — approaching, we’ve taken a crack at handicapping the competition, sorting the candidates into one of three categories based on their chances of making the team or practice squad: solid, so-so and slim.

Solid

Former LSU track star Cyril Grayson had two clutch touchdown receptions from Tom Brady in the 2021 regular season.
Former LSU track star Cyril Grayson had two clutch touchdown receptions from Tom Brady in the 2021 regular season. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Tyler Johnson

Called out by Bruce Arians last year for arriving at camp out of shape, Johnson clearly embraced that criticism and has mostly shined so far. No less an authority than Evans said Johnson — who had 36 catches in 2021 — arrived in camp in “tip-top” shape. “I think he’s learned the offense a little more,” Bowles said, “so he’s playing a lot freer than he was the last two years.”

Breshad Perriman

Anyone who earns Tom Brady’s trust has an inside track, and Perriman — sidelined after pulling up on a route at last Monday’s practice — did that down the 2021 stretch. With the receiving corps in tatters physically, Perriman had 11 catches in a five-game span, including a walk-off 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Brady in a 33-27 overtime win against the Bills.

Cyril Grayson

Like Perriman, this former LSU sprinter earned Brady’s trust — and then some — last season. Grayson had a go-ahead, 50-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter in the Halloween-night loss at New Orleans, and the winning 33-yard scoring reception in a 28-24 road win against the Jets on Jan. 2. The practice squad awaits should he miss out on a roster spot (and clear waivers).

Jaelon Darden

The team’s fourth-round draft pick in 2021 barely created a blip in extensive punt-return duty last season (19 returns, 7.5-yard average), but many have raved about his offseason progression. “His approach all offseason has been outstanding,” Bowles said. “He works hard, he keeps his head down, and he plays ball.”

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

So-so

Last season at Western Kentucky, Bucs 5-foot-9 receiver Jerreth Sterns led the nation in receptions (150), receiving yards (1,902) and touchdown catches (17).
Last season at Western Kentucky, Bucs 5-foot-9 receiver Jerreth Sterns led the nation in receptions (150), receiving yards (1,902) and touchdown catches (17). [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Scotty Miller

Impeded (or sidelined) by turf toe most of last season, Miller looks far more like the 5-foot-9 dynamo of 2020, when he made one of the greatest catches in franchise lore. But he has the same drawback as many on this list: He’s a vertical speedster in an offense that calls on its slot receivers to be more versatile and rugged (see Godwin). If the Bucs let Miller go, someone else might snag him.

Deven Thompkins

One of the feel-good stories emanating from this camp, Thompkins has the requisite NFL speed, but not the size (listed at 5-foot-8, 155 pounds). This undrafted rookie from Utah State has shown astounding leaping chops while elevating for some high throws — or at least high for him. One can just sense coaches muttering, “Man, if only he were 2 or 3 inches taller.’”

Jerreth Sterns

At 5-9, Sterns is only slightly taller than Thompkins, but has turned some heads so far. Moreover, the video-game numbers he posted last season at Western Kentucky (150 catches, 1,902 yards, 17 TDs) can’t be ignored. It’s worth noting Brady has flourished with diminutive receivers throughout his career, which bodes favorably for a several guys on this list. If Sterns is waived, we see someone else picking him up in short order.

Slim

Bucs wide receiver Kaylon Geiger (80) makes an acrobatic reception during training camp Monday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Bucs wide receiver Kaylon Geiger (80) makes an acrobatic reception during training camp Monday at AdventHealth Training Center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Kameron Brown: For some guys, such as this rookie from Coastal Carolina, there just aren’t enough reps in the day.

Vyncint Smith: This fifth-year journeyman with 23 career NFL catches just hasn’t shown much consistency in practice.

Kaylon Geiger: This rookie from Texas Tech has had some shining practice moments, but likely will fall victim to the numbers game.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge