Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers start two rookie wide receivers?

Rather than entertain bore you with one of us talking about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the upcoming 2010 season, we decided to entertain bore you with two of us discussing a singular idea.  This is something I've been meaning to start for awhile and only now got around to it.  Basically it's an e-mail exchange between two members of the staff or community discussing a talking point or question pertaining to the Bucs.  We've done this before, and it was received fairly well, so I thought we'd try it again. 

In this iteration, UNFNole and I decided to quickly tackle the idea of starting two rookie wide receivers (Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams).  We decided who would take what angle and then exchanged a few ideas via e-mail.  The goal here isn't to determine a winner and a loser, but more to show that there are two sides to every coin and lay out our thoughts in a stream of consciousness type way rather than one of us hitting you over the head with a one-sided opinion.

So to see how our first attempt went, hit the jump and find out.

Once we decided upon this topic, UNFNole started it out.

UNFNole - July 5th - The Bucs SHOULD NOT start two rookie WR's this upcoming year. I believe in setting players up for success in every way possible. While the reward may be higher by starting both Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, the risk could be much more damaging to Josh Freeman. You want to surround a young quarterback with every ounce of experience you can. I believe the starting WR should be the best rook and Sammie Stroughter. While Stroughter may not bring a wealth of experience, he brings a full season more than Option B. Let's face it, you want to start the two best players. We can both agree that player IS NOT Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall or Mario Urrutia.

Buc Wild - July 7 - Sorry about the delay, had a few things going on.  I can see the validity behind starting a veteran presence, but if our best bet is Stroughter, I'd rather trot out two big physical targets to accompany K2.  Nothing against Stroughter, but he doesn't even have a full season under his belt as he primarily was a slot receiver.  If Benn and Williams are gonna grow with Freeman, I say run them out there as quickly as possible and lets go.  Let them make their mistakes now.  This is a season that is a building block, no one expects the Super Bowl, so lets allow them to all shake off the cobwebs and become that dynamic receving corp now as opposed to waiting until 2011 and trying to fit Benn and/or Williams into the mix.

I think it boils down to expectations for this year.  I want Freeman to have options now so he doesn't rely on K2.  And with no clear threat ahead of the rookies, why not put them out there?  If we had a healthy Antonio Bryant or any other viable option, I might see the reason behind sitting them, but lets face it, the rookies are (probably) as good as we've got. 

UNFNole - July 8 - First, I think the expectations are set extraordinarily high for these two guys. Not necessarily by you, but many believe these guys to be the instant answer at WR. The most recent example I can think of (besides Oakland, but does that really count?) is Washington. They were in a position where they needed a homerun at WR in 2008 when they draft Devin Thomas, Malcom Kelly and Fred Davis (TE) all in the second round. Injuries and poor play have kept these guys from being remotely productive since they entered the league (even after amazing first training camps). I'm excited about Benn and Williams, but we have to be cautious optimists.

There is no question that a rookie WR can have great success in the NFL. Boldin, Colston, Royal, Calvin Williams, coughlClaytoncough amongst others have all proved this in the last decade. I would love for you to correct me if I am wrong, but I can't find a single instance of two rookie WR that start together having successful seasons.Even further, most examples; Royal, Colston, Clayton, Fitzgerald, D.Jackson came upon their success as the #2 WR.

Lastly, I don't disagree this is a season for building blocks. With a rotation of WR's and Olsens's propensity to chuck it, both will get valuable experience. At the same time though, you are also trying to win ball games. Also, if neither are productive or below average, couldn't you argue that it would harm Freeman's development (since apparently the world revolves around this)?

Buc Wild - July 11 - I think expectations are actually higher for Williams than Benn, but that's a whole different discussion.  The most important factor in starting two rookie receivers is that neither of them have to be the go to guy in this offense.  A healthy K2 has that covered, which should take some of the pressure to perform and expectation off of the two young guys. 

I don't think I can recall an instance where, for the long haul, two rookie WR's started opposite of each other.  I also can't think of a time when, pre-draft, a team had this little talent at WR.  Before Benn and Williams were drafted we were looking at starting two of these four guys:  Clayton, Brown, Stovall, Stroughter.  Not a real dynamic group there.  If any of those four guys were on form, could provide a steady veteran presence, or were hands down more talented, I'd say start them but that group is pretty nasty as starters.  Clayton, enough said.  Brown - wasn't cutting it in Philly.  Languished on the bench so who's to say he's the answer.  Stovall - has had chances and can't seem to figure out the starting WR gig.  Stroughter - good rookie year, but doesn't really bring any more experience or presence than the two rooks.

If the primary goal is to win games, I think you run out your two best options at wide receiver every game.  If your goal is to develop Freeman, I think you take a mix of steadiness (a veteran) and upside (most likely a rookie).  If your goal is to develop the offense (Freeman and parts) and threaten for a Super Bowl at any time, I think you have to let these guys grow together.  Sitting them on a bench, unless they are just dreadful, does them no good.  Lets assume no big moves are made this year.  Who do you start in 2011?  Im assuming that the group listed above (Clayton, Stovall, Brown, Stroughter) won't be much better so do you want Benn and Williams to take their lumps now and be ready for 2011?  Or do we want Freeman and Olsen to spend a year getting one guy up to speed and then doing the same next year.  I know we arent challenging for a SB this year, thus I'd rather make it a worthwhile year and get the team up to speed as fast as possible.  To me, that means trotting out the rooks. 

The easiest comparison is how we are (or should) start McCoy and Price.  No other DT on our roster is great, so why not throw them out there?  I say, lets do the same thing on offense.

UNFNole - July 11 - How do we know that Benn and Williams are any better than these veterans? Let's for a minute just hope that they are 'average' rookie WR's. From 2000-2009 first round WR draft picks (43 of them) averaged 36 grabs, 514 yards and 3.1 touchdowns a season. Not to mention these guys aren't even first rounders. You're also betting on Kellen Winslow to put two productive, healthy back to back seasons together. He has only done this once in his career since coming into the league in 2004.

Also, why do you so easily discount Stroughter as being part of the future of this team? Shouldn't he be given time to develop as well. It's also not like Benn/Williams won't get any reps. The third WR for the Bucs last year (Stovall) caught 24 passes, was thrown to probably 30+ times and played countless amount of snaps. You know Olsen loves that Single-Back and loves to chuck it. Neither should have any problems in getting reps in practice with the first team. There will be ample amount of opportunities to grow with Freeman.

I simply think at this point an time, Stroughter is further along than either rookie. He also has a year of 'growth' with Freeman, has some rapport with the young quarterback and is an extremely dynamic player. Again, I would trust that the coaching staff sees Stroughter an equally important piece of the equation as Williams and Benn. If I had to take a shot in the dark I would hope to see Williams and Stroughter as 1 and 2 respectively. My depth chart would be as follows...

1. Williams
     - Stovall
     -  Brown
    - Clayton
2. Stroughter
      - Benn
      - Urrita/Parker (or whoever else makes the team)

Buc Wild - July 12 - I have to hope that K2 is healthy this year.  Otherwise, our offense looks a lot less impressive.  He hasn't put back to back seasons together in awhile, lets hope this is the year.  I didn't mean to discount Stroughter and I certainly see him as a big player on this team, but my vision for him seems different than yours.  I don't see him as a classic #2 WR.  I see him operating out of the slot, with the big guys (Benn, Williams, Stovall, he who shall not be named etc) occupying the outside.  With his size, speed, and ability to actually catch the ball, he can fill a younger Ike Hilliard's role and even stretch the field some. 

But back to Benn and Williams, the numbers you pulled make me feel a little less hopeful, but I just don't see anyone beating these guys out, outside of your call in Stroughter.  I tried to find a situation with two rookie wideouts, or something similar, and I couldnt really find one.  The closest I came (in recent memory) was Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.  In 2009 they combined for 118 catches for 1,929 yards and 13TD's.  I know Jackson wasn't a rookie last year, but it was close so I went with it. 

Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams are an open book at this point and I'd much rather seem them start the learning process now than 8 games into a lost season. 

Welp.  There you go Buc 'Em.  An exchange of ideas by two of us on a concept that we all will surely be talking about at some point.  Feel free to drop your thoughts on us in the comments section.

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