The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new coach, a new GM, and have spread a new sense of optimism with a lot of fans, who believe the team is better now than it was under Greg Schiano. And while a change in coaching will certainly help the Bucs take a step forward in the upcoming season, is the roster in better shape than it was under Schiano, Mark Dominik and company?
This series will take a position-by-position look at the roster in Tampa Bay, and consider if the Bucs are better off now than they were just under a year ago at this time. (For consistency purposes, I have used the OurLads 2013 depth chart from June 1st, 2013 as a basis for last year's roster.)
It's time to take a look at the receivers.
Then Versus Now
Things looked promising at this time last year, as Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams looked to continue to present Josh Freeman with big, forgiving targets downfield in Mike Sullivan's vertical offense. Ogletree was a welcome addition as a third receiver, while Page, Douglas and Owusu impressed during training camp.
We all know what became of Williams and Ogletree, as they departed Tampa for different reasons over the past year. They're replaced by Evans and Herron, with a new cast of backups and hopefuls sitting behind the stalwart number one receiver Jackson.
Williams was underrated as a player, but always in the news off the field, and this became his demise in Tampa. But as I wrote the day he was traded, his departure created more questions than answers about the future of the position.
Those questions were partially answered on draft day with the addition of Mike Evans, but the Bucs' relatively limited draft assets (and decision to add Charles Sims in the third round rather than a guard or receiver) leaves them similarly thin behind their top two talents.
The biggest difference between the depth chart now and the depth chart at this time last year is a sense of potential growth over the next few years. Mike Williams was at his peak, and Vincent Jackson is on the downward slope on the back half of his career.
But adding in Mike Evans and Robert Herron gives the Bucs two players who may contribute now, but stand to give the team solid production over time as well. Evans is a phenomenal athlete who's a bit raw, and Herron is a burner who will need to find his best role in the NFL as he'll be limited by his small stature.
Ogletree and Underwood were never going to develop into anything special, so by swapping out middling veterans for rookies with promise, the Bucs have started the process of setting themselves up with a good receiving corps long-term. But there's still work to do.
Evans can and should become the number one receiver when Jackson slows down enough to step out of the role, but Herron is never going to be a full-fledged number two receiver. That means the Bucs still need to get another player out wide to compliment Evans, but this might have to happen next year rather than ahead of the 2014 season.
The reserve players all have some interesting potential as well. Streeter fits the "Dunkaneers" mold at 6'5", while Owusu, Patton and Murphy all have speed in bunches. And Eric Page may finally get a chance to be involved in the offense after looking pretty good in training camp in 2013, but never seeing any meaningful work on offense during the season despite a rash of injuries at wide receiver.
The Buccaneers are no better than they were at this time in 2013 at the wide receiver position, but the potential is there to improve over the next few years and have a very solid receiving corps, provided a replacement is found for Vincent Jackson.