TAMPA — Tyler Johnson’s training camp has already featured compliments from Bucs coach Todd Bowles and No. 1 receiver Mike Evans. And his six-catch, 73-yard performance in the preseason opener against the Dolphins on Saturday continued his push for one of the final wideout spots.
Johnson led Tampa Bay’s receivers in catches and yards in their 26-24 loss. Bowles said Kaylon Geiger Sr. and Jerreth Sterns — competing for spots behind Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones and Russell Gage — also impressed with their outputs. Geiger and Sterns each recorded four catches for 52 and 51 yards, respectively.
“Sterns and Geiger both showed up, and (Johnson) showed up in the first half,” Bowles said. “Those guys can play. … We got a lot of tough decisions at receiver.”
On the Bucs’ second drive, quarterback Blaine Gabbert connected twice with Johnson — who, on the second catch, extended over a defensive back with his 6-foot-1 frame — to bring the Bucs across midfield, eventually leading to a touchdown. Quarterback Kyle Trask completed a pass to Johnson early in the second quarter, and after making the catch, Johnson escaped linebacker Sam Eguavoen’s tackle to create a 22-yard play.
Sterns’ impact came in the second half, as he and Trask connected on consecutive plays for 7 and 19 yards. The second play featured a route into the end zone, and when Trask lofted a throw to hit Sterns in stride, the resulting touchdown pulled the Bucs within 23-21.
Geiger turned passing plays into gains of 26 and 19 yards, and on the Bucs’ final drive, he made a short catch to keep advancing the ball upfield. Sterns’ fourth reception helped the Bucs extend their last possession into Miami territory.
“The lights came on, (Sterns) turned it on. Geiger turned it on. (Johnson) turned it on,” Bowles said. “It’s a lot of good film to watch.”
An up-and-down debut for Jake Camarda
After punting four times, rookie Jake Camarda said he “did some good things” and has “some things to work on, obviously.”
He finished with 182 net yards. He had a long of 51 yards, and one punt pinned the Dolphins inside their 5-yard line after their returner signaled for a fair catch.
“First (punt) wasn’t as good, but after that, his hang time and his directional punting was great,” Bowles said.
Camarda also split kickoffs with Jose Borregales. Two of his went for touchbacks. His other one kept tailing left until it bounced out of bounds.
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“Hit a bad one,” Camarda said. “That’s not something I’m too worried about.”
Odds and ends
Linebacker Grant Stuard (hamstring) was ruled out Saturday early in the first quarter. He started alongside K.J. Britt as the Bucs’ two inside linebackers with regular starters Devin White and Lavonte David inactive. Outside linebacker Cam Gill (foot) and running back Giovani Bernard (ankle) also left the game. … The Bucs listed 29 players as inactive ahead of Saturday’s game, while the Dolphins held out 17. … Rookie running back Rachaad White lined up as a returner for the first two kickoffs. Deven Thompkins and Geiger also returned kicks and punts.
Contact Andrew Crane at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CraneAndrew.
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