Sure, Jameis Winston became one of just three rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards last year. But how close could he have gotten to league record-holder Andrew Luck’s 4,374-yard total with a few less drops and a little more accuracy?
That question will never have an answer, but smoothing the passing attack’s rough edges has been a focus of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throughout the first five days of training camp.
Bucs WRs Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson & Kenny Bell – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs receivers – notably their top-two weapons Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans – have been dogged by low catch rates and drops the past two seasons.
Despite hauling in 74 passes for 1,206 yards (11th in the NFL), Evans left quite a bit of production on the field. Some passes were well-defensed and others were poorly thrown, but the second-year emerging star’s 11 drops, according to SportingCharts.com, led the league. His 50 percent catch rate (74 receptions on 148 targets) was the lowest of all 42 pass catchers last year with at least 100 targets.
Evans wasn’t alone, either. The collective success of Bucs receivers wasn’t much more impressive. The six Bucs receivers to get a ball thrown their way from Winston combined to catch 158 of 308 attempts (51.3 percent) and commit 17 of the teams 25 drops. The team drop total was above the league average of 21.8. (Baltimore pass catchers set the standard for sure-handedness (12 drops), with Philadelphia on the other end of the spectrum (37).
Bumping up catch rates and cutting down on drops are good places to start boosting offensive efficiency and, ideally, scoring.
Evans spoke with the media following Monday’s training camp session and said all Bucs pass catchers have participated in drills designed to emphasize the full process of securing catches and retaining possession. During position drills and sometimes after practice, receivers can be seen repeatedly catching passes with one or two other teammates slapping at their arms and the ball.
“That’s just us working on contested catches,” Evans said. “Just catches, period. We didn’t do too well, myself included, as far as catching balls. But we’re working on things like that and disciplining ourselves to have a better a year.”
For a physical receiver like Evans who doesn’t shy away from contact, it’s not the tight-window, heavily contested passes that tend to end up on the turf, he said.
“The thing is, my contested catches were great last year. It was the wide open ones, so [that’s about] keeping my focus.”
Adam Humphries, recently named Tampa Bay’s starting slot receiver, finished last season with the highest catch rate among wideouts, securing 67.5 percent of balls thrown his way (27 of 40). Based on percentages, Humphries was followed by Louis Murphy at 55.6 percent (10 of 18), Jackson at 52.4 percent (33 of 63), Donteea Dye at 36.7 percent (11 of 30) and Russell Shepard at 33.3 percent (3 of 9).
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