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Wright Helps Bucs Keep Defenses Honest

Posted Oct 14, 2013

The sudden emergence of rookie TE Tim Wright, who was playing wide receiver just a few months ago, has added a dimension to the Bucs' offense for which opposing defenses must account

  • Rookie TE Tim Wright, a converted receiver, made his first NFL start against Philly and contributed significantly to the offense
  • Four of Wright's seven catches came on third down, and all four of them produced first downs
  • A serious pass-catching threat at the tight end position should help the rest of the Buccaneers' offense
In May, Mike Glennon was a third-round rookie quarterback picking up the game behind an entrenched starter and Tim Wright was an undrafted wide receiver trying to show he could play in the NFL.  The future might have been bright for both, but it didn't seem particularly close, so they focused on daily goals and incremental improvements.  Many times, they worked together, taking whatever reps they could get behind the presumptive starters.

Five months later, Glennon and Wright are connecting again, but now they're front and center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Glennon is now the Buccaneers' starting quarterback, having supplanted the since-departed Josh Freeman in one of the most dramatic in-season moves a team can make.  Wright, having switched positions during training camp, made his first NFL start on Sunday against Philadelphia.  The two hooked up seven times for 91 yards in Sunday's game, the best output by a Tampa Bay tight end in two years.

“We came in together as rookies and we spent a lot of time during the offseason throwing routes on air and getting that timing down, that connection," said Wright.  "You never thought, down this line, that we’d be the two hooking up together at this point, but it happened, and it’s starting to show for us.”

At 0-5, the Buccaneers are having trouble finding much to celebrate.  The sudden emergence of Wright, which few people would have predicted even a few weeks ago, is at the very least an intriguing bright spot and at most a seriously important development for the offense.

The 6-4, 220-pound Wright played receiver at Rutgers but knew when he signed with the Buccaneers after the 2013 draft that a position switch was possible.  He was not truly expecting to get drafted, and he had little trouble deciding that Tampa Bay was his best option to prove himself.  Nevertheless, he was at the bottom of the tight end depth chart to start training camp – not surprising given that he was brand new to the position – and simply making the 53-man roster seemed like an uphill battle.

He did make it, and a rash of injuries suddenly thrust him into a more prominent role.  Free agent pickup Tom Crabtree suffered an ankle sprain at the end of the preseason and missed the first four games.  Luke Stocker and Nate Byham later went down with season-ending injuries.  Wright gave a glimpse of what he might be able to offer with five catches for 41 yards against Arizona in Week Four, then came out of the bye week with a serious coming-out party.  In fact, if one discounts a 107-yard game by replacement player Steve Holloway during the 1987 players' strike, Wright's 91 yards against the Eagles is the most ever in a single game by a Buccaneer rookie tight end.

-- Former WR Tim Wright had one of the best games ever for a Buc rookie tight end
Wright said he was able to step immediately into an important role because he has always readied himself for the opportunity, no matter how close he appeared to be to a starting job.

“I think that comes from my preparation," he said.  "I was a fourth-string, fifth-string [tight end] at the beginning of the year, [but] I felt like I prepared as a starter. [With] the injuries that happened, I felt like it was my time to step up. It wasn’t too much pressure on me – I took it as I should – and I think I’m getting it done.

“Making the switch to tight end, I had to learn a lot of things, the ins and outs of the position, learning how the defenders, how the linebackers are going to cover me, how the safeties are going to cover me, because I’m on the inside now. I’m getting a better understanding of how they’re playing me, so I can react and I can do different things from that position now.”

Wright wasn't the team's leading receiver on Sunday; that unsurprisingly went to Vincent Jackson, who had nine catches for 114 yards and two scores.  But he was particularly important when the Bucs needed to move the chains, catching four passes on third down, all of them resulting in first downs.

"I thought he made a lot of plays," said Head Coach Greg Schiano.  "One of them was a spectacular catch – bracketed [by two defenders] and he makes the catch. I’m glad that we’re getting the tight end more involved. I think it makes you more complete if you can do that. It makes teams defend all your eligibles."

Defenders have to cover the whole field. It takes a lot of pressure off just one receiver [when] they've got to cover everybody honest.
-- Tim Wright
That is exactly what the Buccaneers need out of the tight end position, rather than any specific numbers.  Through the first month of the season, opposing defenses could safely pivot their attention away from the Bucs' tight ends, correctly assuming the quarterback would be looking elsewhere.  Now, with Wright suddenly looking like a viable receiving threat and Crabtree rounding back into playing shape, defenses will be ignoring the Bucs' tight ends at their own peril.

"Glennon going through his reads and hitting the open guy opens it up," said Wright.  "Defenders have to cover the whole field.  It takes a lot of pressure off just one receiver [when] they've got to cover everybody honest."