Bucs TE Tevin Westbrook - Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
The Bucs’ tight end group is one to keep an eye on this summer.
From Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ quest to stay healthy and live up to his second-round status to last year’s offensive success story, Cameron Brate, showing improved chemistry with Jameis Winston, the presumptive starters provide enough interest on their own heading into training camp. But it doesn’t end there.
Aside from Luke Stocker, who primarily serves as a utility blocker and has proven value in his own right, Tampa Bay has another athlete and potential pass-catching tight end in former Florida Gator, Tevin Westbrook.
The second-year pro, who signed to the Bucs practice squad last September, ended practice Thursday with a post-pattern touchdown in the back of the end zone, perfectly executed. It was only one play, but an impressive one nonetheless.
He claims that having an entire offseason in the same system has been the difference in his development.
“Just being on the team, whether it’s on the practice squad or active,” Westbrook said. “It’s better just to get to know the playbook, and now being out the field perfecting my craft. To be honest, just being in the same system and having the same offense makes it easier this time around.”
Because Westbrook was undrafted in 2014 and spent all of 2015 on the practice squad, few people know his name and even fewer are aware of his unconventional path into the NFL. But there’s legitimate reason for why he was likely overlooked by NFL teams and slow to catch on.
Westbrook began his career at Florida as a defensive tackle and didn’t switch to tight end until his junior year. A late transition – one that involved a body-transformation and having to learn an entirely different position – likely stunted his growth at tight end, and therefore caused him to go largely unrecognized out of college.
“Having to switch to tight end my junior year was really tough,” he said. “I had never played it.”
He did, however, have one advantage at Florida: learning from one of the best. The Gator’s starting tight end at the time was Jordan Reed, who recently signed a five-year, $50 million deal with Washington after a monumental season. He was Westbrook’s mentor in Gainesville.
“Jordan Reed, being the great guy he is, he helped me out a lot,” Westbrook said. “He didn’t really have to say much – just watching him helped me. It helped me know how to practice, how to attack the ball.”
While Reed’s firm grasp of the starting role left Westbrook out of the mix for a season, Westbrook believes the shadowing process helped him more in the long run. He was able to observe and take notes without any rush to hit the field.
And now that Westbrook’s shed the defensive tackle weight, and found stability in an offense, Reed’s lessons are just now starting to click for him.
“When I first switched to tight end, he taught me how to get off the line and try to be quick out of my breaks, which is helpful now” Westbrook said. “Back then, when I was bigger, it didn’t really help much. Now it is and I’m understanding what he was telling me.”
This is not meant to compare an undrafted free agent to one of the best tight ends in the league, but Westbrook’s path and maturation – one that Lovie Smith first expressed optimism in late last season – shouldn’t go unnoticed. The 6-foot-5 pro proved his versatility and commitment to the craft by switching from tackle to tight end and certainly has the prototypical size for the position.
If he can take advantage of another year in the system, applying what he learned from Jordan Reed three years ago, then the Bucs could have a potential sleeper to keep an eye on this summer.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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I remember they brought his name up last season about being a raw talent… Hope to see some flashes from him this year. Let the competition begin!!
Another reason why Dirk sent ASJ home today? He knows he’s got players on the roster that can give us what ASJ was supposed to.
He hasn’t had too many chances to show it yet, but we do not have one other player on the roster that possesses ASJ’s skill set. We have Westbrook who might be a good receiving specialist, Brate who is kinda emerging as that, and Stocker who’s a great blocking TE. But we have no one else, other than Jenkins, who is both a strong blocker and capable of consistently being a weapon in the passing game.
I’m not saying he’s indispensable by any means, but he is uniquely talented among our tight ends.
You’re absolutely right Too. Anyone who watched Training Camp practices and the few games he played at the beginning last year could see the ability ASJ possesses. But what folks focus on are the Captain Morgan pose, the ill-timed OT fumble, the spiking of the ball at the one yard line and other youthful actions. I’m not ready to write him off just yet either.
Hopefully the light bulb of maturity will start to flicker on soon.
Yea, he’s definitely shown some immaturity. If that keeps up and he doesn’t stay healthy, he probably won’t make it. But he is very talented, and both of those issues are plenty correctable. I think this incident with him is noteworthy, but it HAS been blown out of proportion. I mean, on the spectrum of problems players can cause, slightly over the top celebrations and a bit too much twitter usage are relatively small offenses. Whatever caused him to be sent off from practice bothers me more, but even then, we’re talking about OTA’s. I think we should try to have some perspective here. The sky isn’t falling.
Westbrook was moved to TE from DT so was not a starter as a Gator. Just remember Dotson was a basketball player who only played a year of college football and only developed on the Buc’s Practice Squad being developed as a RT. Now he is our longest tenured OL and was Undrafted out of college. He studies his playbook and was mentored by a top NFL TE while he was starting for the Gators. It is great to have Westbrook available to develop and also to have Brate who proved last year he can match VSJ’s production and start right now and has good chemistry with Winston.
You get paid Millions of dollars and have no idea of what is going on in the huddle?
I don’t think the light bulb is even screwed in correctly!!!! Westbrook just needs to shine in preseason.
wELL bUC FANS.i BELIEVE HE WILL BE PART OF THE TEAM.go bucs
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