With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers wrapping up a successful two days of practices against the Tennessee Titans and preparing for their second preseason game on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Tennessee, here's a look at how that group is shaping up, including players who have essentially locked up roster spots and on-the-bubble guys vying for the fifth (and possibly sixth) spots.
Coach Dirk Koetter was asked this week if it was tempting to throw the ball to Evans on every play. "That's pretty much what we do, I think."
He's right. Since 2014, Evans has been the fifth-most targeted wide receiver in the league, averaging nearly 10 targets per game, and he had the most targets in the league in 2016 (171). A big area of focus for Evans in 2018 is yards after the catch. He also has to get more consistent in the red zone, especially when being shadowed or doubled-teamed. For fantasy, Evans' 507.20 points over the past two seasons ties him with DeAndre Hopkins for fourth-most in the league.
It wasn't that Jackson was targeted a lot less in 2017 than he was in previous seasons. In fact, his targets went from 92 in 2016 to 89 in 2017. But Jameis Winston struggled to connect with him on the deep ball -- much of that because of Winston's shoulder injury, which affected his overall velocity, but also their chemistry and timing. Their connection has improved quite a bit this offseason, although you'll still see Winston occasionally overthrow him. Jackson's go-to route will always be the "go" route, because even at 31, he still has top-flight speed to outrun defenders. You'll also occasionally see him on shorter, underneath routes and trick plays, like end-arounds.
Whether he's listed as one on the depth chart, the coaching staff views Godwin as a starter. In fact, many would argue that his deep touchdown catch in the final seconds of the Bucs' Week 17 win against the Saints was the play of the season. Like Evans, Godwin can play four wideout spots, so he'll get plenty of opportunities. He was slow to break out in 2017 because he played behind Jackson, but also because he was having some issues adjusting to the Florida weather. He doesn't get an enormous amount of separation like Jackson but has great concentration and competes for the ball. Jackson's contract is up after the 2019 season, but his guaranteed money is up after this season, and Godwin is a likely replacement.
The Bucs' slot receiver, Humphries might not produce the dazzling highlights of Evans or Jackson, but he's very efficient, catching 73.5 percent of his targets last season, tops among Bucs receivers. Koetter, who calls Humphries a "glue guy," says that "every guy isn't going to gain a thousand yards receiving, but you need that guy that's always in the right spot at the right time and is there when you need him. That's Adam."
On the bubble
Wilson might be the only other receiver the Bucs have with on-field speed that could rival Jackson's. Koetter said Wilson might have taken the biggest jump, both personally and professionally, between last season and this one, and that he had "one of the best offseasons of anybody." He's got great burst with the ball in his hands, much like a running back. He's also benefited enormously from having Winston helping him along. The two linked up for an 18-yard touchdown last season against the Carolina Panthers.
Reedy's another speed guy. He's smaller, and primarily lines up in the slot. He caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Winston during one of the first public practices of training camp. Reedy often gets overlooked, despite being a consistent pass-catcher and solid on special teams, because the Bucs view him as mostly limited to playing the slot and because they relied more on touchbacks than returns last season. The Bucs parted ways with him last year and the New England Patriots picked him up.
Martino's a bigger wide receiver and also a versatile special-teams performer. The Bucs actually kept Martino at the expense of Reedy last season because Martino can play every receiver position (he's best suited on the outside, though) and they wanted his physicality. There's just not a real "wow" factor with him like there is with some of the others.
The newcomer of the bunch, and a fifth-round draft pick, Watson has had to make great strides after missing much of the offseason because of a hamstring injury. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Watson's best attribute is his physicality at the line of scrimmage. In rookie camp, he held his own, even against the likes of cornerback Carlton Davis, another very physical player. Because of the Bucs' depth, Watson might be best-suited for the practice squad right now, but the Bucs might not want to run the risk of putting him through waivers. That alone could earn him a roster spot, similar to what happened with tight end Antony Auclair in 2017.
An undrafted free agent out of Eastern Michigan, Koetter singled him and Ervin Philips out for their playmaking ability in the first preseason game against the Dolphins, when Bailey had four catches for 52 receiving yards, 28 coming on the final game-winning drive. He also caught a jaw-dropping touchdown on a pass from Ryan Griffin during practice last week.
Syracuse's all-time leader in receptions, Koetter praised Philips for his ability to adjust on the fly against the Dolphins. "Erv hadn't been playing outside at all -- he had to play outside in the game the other night. You can find out who pays attention in the meetings." He caught both of his targets for 22 receiving yards. His 5-foot-11, 179-pound frame does limit him to primarily being a slot guy, which he played quite a bit in college.