We're going through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster position by position, to see if the team improved compared to last year. Today: wide receiver.
2015 roster: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Kenny Bell, Louis Murphy, Russell Shepard, Donteea Dye, Adam Humphries, Evan Spencer.
2016 roster: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Kenny Bell, Louis Murphy, Russell Shepard, Donteea Dye, Adam Humphries, Evan Spencer, Andre Davis, Freddie Martino, Bernard Reedy.
As has been the case at essentially every position on offense, the Bucs look like they superficially have the same roster they did last year. But age and injuries should make a big difference: Vincent Jackson was injured for large parts of last year, Louis Murphy only played a few games, and Kenny Bell missed the entire season.
Unlike other positions, though, the Bucs can’t rely on healthier players this year. Vincent Jackson will be 31 and showed significant signs of decline even when he was healthy last year, while Louis Murphy won’t be ready to participate in practice until training camp at the earliest, which makes relying on his newly-healed ACL a risky endeavor. Kenny Bell is healthy and showing up during the offseason so far, but he’s still just a fifth-round pick with no experience. How much can we really expect out of him? There’s also Russell Shepard, who keeps looking promising when he gets a chance, but remains a special teamer only in the eyes of his coaches. So we probably shouldn’t count on him.
At least Mike Evans is a very good player, with two 1,000+-yard seasons in two years. The offseason noise surrounding Evans has been promising, and we can probably expect months of working with Jameis Winston to help them get on the same page a little more than they were last year.
Then there’s the group of promising (ex-)undrafted free agents, led by Adam Humphries. The latter had a decent enough season for an undrafted rookie, but 260 receiving yards don’t warrant the hype he’s getting. He’s an athletically limited, small slot receiver who is likely limited to an underneath role. Everyone loves these Wes Welker types, but he doesn’t have Welker’s fluidity, preciseness and short-area quickness. Humphries is a useful role player, but not the kind of player you should rely on to elevate your receiving corps.
Then there’s Donteea Dye, Bernard Reedy, Freddie Martino and Evan Spencer — all talented athletes who were reasonably productive in college, but the NFL is filled with receivers like that who never amount to much at the pro level.
The Bucs have a lot of bodies at wide receiver and that means they have one kind of depth, but they don’t have any quality depth with NFL production.
So overall, the Bucs are probably worse at wide receiver than they were last year. They should expect to be slightly healthier, but Vincent Jackson’s age-related decline, Louis Murphy needing to return from an ACL injury and a general lack of depth are probably too much to overcome.