New coordinator Monken to take long look at Bucs receivers

Bucs new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Monken speaks to reporters Thursday in Tampa. “I’m so excited to be here I can’t see straight,” Monken says.
Bucs new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Todd Monken speaks to reporters Thursday in Tampa. “I’m so excited to be here I can’t see straight,” Monken says.
Published Jan. 31, 2016

It's unclear exactly what impact former Southern Miss coach Todd Monken will have as offensive coordinator with Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter retaining his play-calling duties. In fact, Monken's biggest impact will likely be as receivers coach.

Last season, Mike Evans enjoyed his second 1,000-yard season but produced only three touchdowns. He also led the NFL with 12 dropped passes. A talent like Evans simply can't fight his hands, lose confidence and kill drives.

Monken said he will make it a personal challenge to eliminate dropped passes.

"It's repetition. That's all it is, is repetition and putting yourself in those positions so that … it's the routine," Monken said. "And he's a talented young man that I think is ascending and has everything in front of him as a player. I take that personally, and I hope he does. Where do you want to be? Where do you want to be in a week, two weeks, in a year, five years? What do you want out of this small opportunity that you have, that the good Lord has blessed you (with). I just want to be a big part of it. But it's all about routine. He has good ball skills, it's not a matter of that. I don't think anybody's saying he doesn't have good ball skills and the ability to compete for the ball. He wants to do it, he's talented. I've talked to a lot of people about him that have coached him in college and here. I'm excited to get started and I take that personally. My job is to make sure he doesn't drop the ball. That's it."

The Bucs are relatively pleased with their receivers. But struggled more in the six games Vincent Jackson missed with a knee injury. Jackson had 33 receptions for 543 yards and three scores last season, all career lows as a Buc.

Jackson is 33, has a $9.77 million base salary and counts $12.2 million against the salary cap next season. But the Bucs expect Jackson to return in 2016 and there have been no discussions about reducing his salary.

The reason is simple. There are not a lot of great free agent veteran options outside of the Bears' Alshon Jeffrey or perhaps the Falcons' Roddy White, if he is released. Jackson's versatility impressed Koetter. When Jackson played, the Bucs averaged 22.3 points a game compared with 19.6 when he was out.

"Vincent is the glue of our passing game," Koetter said. "He can play all the positions, he always knows what to do, he's one of the hardest workers on the field, he's always in the right spot. When I came here a year ago, I though Vincent was very similar to Roddy White when I first went to Atlanta — a do-everything receiver. (He) can go deep, can go across the middle, can go inside and block, you can move him around."

The Bucs also expect Louis Murphy to return from a torn ACL while Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye should build on their successful rookie debuts.

In or out?

Jackson isn't the only player who should be back at his full salary. Here's what the team is thinking about these high-priced veterans under contract:

CB Alterraun Verner: He has a base salary of $6.75 million next season, but will get a restart under new offensive coordinator Mike Smith. Verner got caught in the revolving door in the secondary last season and moving him inside as a slot defensive back was a mistake. He and Johnthan Banks will get a chance to reclaim their starting spots.

G Logan Mankins: He is expected to decide soon about whether to return for a 12th NFL season after the Pro Bowl. He has a $250,000 workout bonus and a $6.75 million base salary for 2016. There are really no player in the wings at left guard, save for maybe Kevin Pamphile, who is probably better suited at tackle.

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T Gosder Cherilus: The team is fortunate Cherilus was available when Demar Dotson went down in training camp last season. Though he was inactive the last two games, Cherilus will be back with a $2.5 million base salary and $1.5 million roster bonus.

"I was asked to come back so I think I'm going to give it another go," Cherilus said.

Things can change after the draft or the offseason.

"We like them and we're not in negotiations to reduce anyone's salary," general manager Jason Licht said. "Verner deserves another chance. They are all under contract, so there's no need to do anything right now."