Sun. Jul 21st, 2024
Tampa Bay Bucs Mandatory Minicamp
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Has wide receiver officially become the deepest position on the team once again?

Another year of Bucs’ football and another year of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The 2024 season will mark the fifth year of the duo leading Tampa’s passing attack. Since the two have become Tampa Bay’s Batman and Robin they have combined for over 10,000 yards and 80 touchdowns. This season, Evans and Godwin headline what is rounding into a rather deep position group for the Bucs.

The group may never be deeper than what it was from late-2020 into mid-2021 when behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sat a Hall of Fame talent in Antonio Brown. 2024’s group may not even measure up to the talent level of what Tampa boasted in 2018. Though the 2018 season played out before Chris Godwin established himself as a full-time starter, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, the frequently forgotten and underrated Adam Humphries, and the aforementioned Chris Godwin were still quite a deep group. This year, Tampa has put some pieces in place to emphasize depth at the position once again.

Last season, the Bucs third option was Trey Palmer— A rookie sixth round pick. Palmer finished the year with 39 catches, 385 yards, three scores, some poor moments, and a lot of potential shown. The natural line of thought would be in year two Palmer is likely to take a step forward which would make him a very viable third option heading into the season, however, the team has yet to even reach training camp and Palmer has essentially been forced into taking a step backwards.

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The Bucs used a third round selection on a wide receiver earlier this offseason— adding legitimate talent through the NFL Draft in consecutive years. While Palmer could outshine Tampa’s newest addition during practice and preseason, third round picks are not throwaway draft picks and are usually given multiple opportunities to prove themselves and earn a spot— Jalen McMillan figures to pencil his name into the Bucs’ third receiver spot so, if there was any projection of Trey Palmer fine-tuning his game into that of a credible wide receiver-three— How far over expectation will his production be for a wide receiver-four?

The number of wide receivers each team carries into an NFL season varies. Generally, as you work your way further down the depth chart you’ll see less offensive reps and more special teams reps— Less experience and more youth, Although recently the Bucs collaborated with Baker Mayfield on an interesting signing.

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Sterling Shepard is far from an elite playmaker at this point in his career, but this is the kind of low risk, high reward signing that people may praise Jason Licht for, months from now. Shepard’s injury history is well documented— but having a veteran player with this much skill never hurts.

The other key notation that needs to be made is that Shepard may have a leg up on some of his peers. The rapport between a quarterback and receiver cannot be understated.

Not all talented tandems pan out, chemistry is crucial. Tom Brady and Randy Moss forged new milestones in the record books. Years later, that same quarterback couldn’t get any consistency or production out of Chad Ocho Cinco. Neither Moss nor Ocho Cinco had sensational seasons in their last year prior to joining the Patriots. Statistically, Chad Ocho Cinco actually outplayed Randy Moss— Still, Moss— in New England—stood in the endzone 23 times his first season, while Chad Ocho Cinco scored just one single touchdown during his New England Patriots tenure.

With Sterling Shepard on the bubble of potentially not earning a spot on the team or becoming a veteran fifth option with a very respectable NFL résumé, Tampa Bay is set up to have the 2024 wide receiver group be one of its deepest, since the legendary departure of Antonio Brown.

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