TAMPA — Tight end Cade Otton made an honest mistake that changed the way he catches the football.
“I brought my gloves out to practice (one day last week), and I realized I brought two left-handed gloves,” Otton said. “All right, I just threw those aside. Throughout practice, I just felt good catching the ball (barehanded). And so I did it again the next day and it felt good again, so I just felt like going back to it. It felt good.”
Pass catchers have had a glove affair with what they wear on their hands. And the stickiness of the leather mitts in the NFL these days certainly can reduce drops.
But Otton, the grandson of a legendary high school football coach in Washington, is decidedly old school. It doesn’t stop with the glove story.
The 24-year-old has been an iron man for the Bucs this season and rarely comes off the field. He’s already logged 135 plays in two games, or 97% of the offensive snaps. That’s the most of any Bucs skill player other than quarterback Baker Mayfield.
It’s a heavier lift than normal for Otton with the Bucs’ new commitment to the run game under offensive coordinator Dave Canales. The Bucs had 67 rushing attempts in two games this season, which ranks sixth in the NFL. Suffice to say, Otton has been there for all of them.
The indefatigable Otton worked hard in the offseason on his strength and conditioning after his rookie year, which saw him log only 70% of the offensive snaps.
“It’s a great challenge,” Otton said. “You know, I try and take pride and never ask to come out of the game so it’s just like one of those things, you’ve got to refocus every single play. Just focus on that next rep and what do you have to do to win it. That’s really all I’m thinking about in the moment and then you know, however many plays I play at the end of the game.”
Otton remains a reliable target for Baker Mayfield. He has eight receptions this season, including six for 41 yards in Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Bears.
Of course, the Bucs and Otton still have much improvement make in the run game. While no longer last in rushing attempts, where they finished a year ago, the Bucs are only averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season; that is better than just three other teams in the league.
That said, the Bucs showed some progress in Week 2. Running back Rachaad White rushed 17 times for 73 yards (4.3 avg.) and a touchdown Sunday. That’s a big improvement from Week 1 when he averaged 2.3 yards per attempt.
“That’s something Coach Canales has talked about, just the more reps we can get in the system, the more it’ll come together, the better we’ll feel about it,” Otton said. “And so, I think just sticking to the run is so important in this offense and to us developing as a group and for us to get that amount of carries the first couple of weeks, to get those runs on tape, to study them and watch them is only going to do good things for us down the road. Obviously, it led to great results in the games.”
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In fact, Canales demonstrated a ton of faith in Otton and others in Sunday’s win. Facing third and goal at the Bears’ 4-yard line, Canales opted to ground and pound it into the end zone by giving the football to White again. He responded with a 4-yard touchdown run.
“That was all Canales right there,” coach Todd Bowles said. “All the credit goes to him. They had a two-high (safety) look and we checked to something that made it a little vulnerable in the box. He believed in them. The line did a good job and Rachaad ran hard.”
What does Bowles make of the Bucs’ rushing attack?
“They got better,” Bowles said. “Like I said, we’re going to do whatever we have to do to win the game. I’m not sitting here saying we’re hellbent on getting 150 yards rushing a game. We rushed it efficiently. That’s what we’re looking for, that’s what we got. We’ll break some, and some games, we may not. It helps us win ballgames and keep time of possession. It was good.”
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