The Tampa Bay Buccaneers incorporated a lot of low red zone work in their practice on Friday morning, with most of it taking place around the north end zone, very close to bleachers full of fans on both sides. Many of those fans were holding printed 90-man rosters, and that's a good thing because they probably learned a new name on Friday.
In one spirited, back-and-forth seven-on-seven drill in that area, second-year wide receiver Jonathan Krause made the two most eye-opening plays, one a diving catch in the back left corner of the end zone and the other a high leap above a defender right on the back line. That's #10 on the roster, a number Krause was assigned just 13 days ago.
Pictures of season pass members at the Buccaneers' training camp practice on Friday.
If Krause's name was unfamiliar to many of those surrounding fans, they shouldn't feel bad. Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter would have been in the same boat about two weeks ago.
"I didn't even know that guy's name," said Koetter of Krause after the latter had another very strong practice. "[General Manager] Jason [Licht] and those guys pulled him off the waiver wire and talked about his history. For a kid that missed all of our OTAs and just came out here, he's doing well. He's definitely in the mix."
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About a week into training camp, Koetter revealed that Adam Humphries had assumed the third-receiver role behind the obvious starting duo of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. He continues to insist, however, that the fourth through eighth spots on the current depth chart are still quite fluid. That Krause, who was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles on July 23, is in that battle is fairly remarkable. He didn't have a peek at Koetter's playbook until five days before the first practice of camp, putting him in serious catch-up mode.
"I'm just pretty much doing whatever I can to learn the playbook – meeting with coaches, meeting with the quarterbacks, even getting information from the other receivers," said Krause. "I'm doing anything I can possibly due to basically catch up because I did come in behind the eight ball. I'm just trying to learn the playbook as fast as possible. It's a day-by-day thing. It's something I've got to stay on top of every day."
A little over a year ago, the Buccaneers signed cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah, an undrafted rookie who had not been on any other NFL roster to that point, on the day before camp opened. Against the odds, Adjei-Barimah landed a practice squad spot, then a promotion to the 53-man roster and eventually a starting role for seven games. Adjei-Barimah is back for a second Buc camp and performing quite well.
Krause is trying to follow a similar path, and he has the advantage of some previous NFL experience. The Vanderbilt product has been to training camps in Cleveland and New England, logged practice squad time with the Patriots and Eagles and was even on Philly's active roster for a portion of last season, appearing in two games and catching two passes.
That experience might help him make a quick adjustment to a new team and a new scheme, but it won't factor into the coaches' decision-making when roster cuts roll around in about a month. Krause knows that it's what he puts on tape in practices and the upcoming games that will determined his fate, so he's trying to make an impression while he has the chance.
"It's definitely training camp, and training camp goes by quick," he said. "Shoot, next week we've got our first preseason game. For me, I've got to work hard to learn the playbook as fast as possible so that I'm on top of every opportunity I get out there. You only get so many opportunities. When it comes to me I've got to catch it. I've got to make every opportunity count."
Krause did that on Friday, and he's had several noteworthy mornings during the first nine days of camp. In addition to his aforementioned red zone work, he had a handful of catches in other team drills, including a couple thrown by starting quarterback Jameis Winston. Here and there, Krause has been on the field with the first-team offense, if only for a snap or two. He's not sure if that has any significance, but it certainly can't hurt.
"To be honest, I couldn't even tell you why that happens," said Krause of his first-team cameos. "When they tell me to go in, I go in. I'm not sure how they structure the rotation of reps, so I just go in when I'm told. At this point, I'm just trying to make the best of every opportunity."
Behind the opening three of Evans, Jackson and Humphries, the Bucs are sorting through such receivers as Kenny Bell, Donteea Dye, Bernard Reedy, Freddie Martino and Evan Spencer, all of whom have also had their moments in training camp. At 5-11 and 190 pounds, Krause doesn't stand out above the others with his size. He does have good speed, with a 4.37 40-yard dash at the 2014 Vanderbilt Pro Day on his record, but so do several of his competitors. Krause can stand out simply by continuing to make plays, as he did repeatedly on Friday. He could also get a foothold on the roster if the team likes what he has to offer in the return game.
Krause saw extensive action as a punt returner at Vanderbilt, averaging 6.8 yards on 63 runbacks. In his 2012 junior year, he averaged 11.2 yards per return on 25 tries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Despite his late arrival, the Buccaneers have thrown Krause right into the mix at both punt and kickoff return, a pair of jobs that will probably be determined by results from the four preseason games. Krause is glad he's getting the opportunity to show another way he can help the team.
"I'm trying to do whatever I can to increase my value as a player," he said.
He's already doing a fine job of increasing his name recognition.