We're evaluating each Tampa Bay Buccaneers as we prepare for training camp. Did the team improve or did they get worse? Today: wide receivers.
2014 roster: Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Russell Shepard, Solomon Patton, Tavarres King
2015 roster: Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Russell Shepard, Tavarres King, Kenny Bell, Kaelin Clay, Donteea Dye, Rannell Hall, Adam Humphries
Having drafted a wide receiver with the seventh overall pick, the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers expected to get some big production out of their wideouts -- and so they did. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans became the first pair of Tampa Bay wide receivers to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the same season, while veteran journeyman Louis Murphy added a respectable 380 yards on 31 catches. Given the team's lackluster quarterbacks and horrifyingly terrible offensive line, that was more than respectable production.
Even so, the Bucs look like they improved at wide receiver this year. The three top producers return and while Vincent Jackson may be slowing down a little, Mike Evans' newfound experience should make up for that. Mostly, though, the team will benefit from the addition of fifth-round pick Kenny Bell. The Nebraska product is built like an explosive straight-line receiver, similar to both Jackson and Evans. While he'll undoubtedly take a while to adjust to the NFL level, he should be a valuable special teams player as a rookie and a replacement-in-waiting for Jackson in the long term.
In addition, the Bucs could see another explosive receiver join the fold. Russell Shepard's athleticism is intriguing and the special teamer has flashed at times both in the offseason and during the regular season on the rare occasions when he got a shot as a receiver -- he may finally be able to find a part-time role for himself this year. Kaelin Clay's addition will likely help the return game primarily, as his production as a receiver in college was absolutely unspectacular, but there's a chance he manages to do some damage in certain sub packages as well.
What say you, Bucs Nation?