Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Have Big-Play Tight Ends

Despite limited playing time, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of just three NFL TEs with multiple 40+-yard TD catches…That and other statistical takeaways from Sunday's game.

Behind-the-scenes photos of the Buccaneers vs. Bears game at the Raymond James Stadium on December 27th.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored their final points of Sunday's lost to the Chicago Bears on a 43-yard touchdown catch by second-year tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Even though Seferian-Jenkins has only played in six games this season, missing significant time with a shoulder injury, he has two scoring receptions of at least 40 yards. He is one of only three tight ends in the NFL that can make that claim in 2015:

Player

Team

40+-Yard TD Rec.

Rob Gronkowski

New England

2 (76, 47)

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Tampa Bay

2 (43, 41)

Delanie Walker

Tennessee

2 (61, 57)

Seferian-Jenkins' touchdown on Sunday was the longest scoring reception by a Buccaneer tight end since Ken Dilger's 45-yard TD grab against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 10, 2004. Statspass has data of this variety tracked back through the 1994 season and only Seferian-Jenkins and Kellen Winslow have two 40+-yard touchdown catches among Buccaneer tight ends in that 22-season span.

In the same game on Sunday, rookie quarterback Jameis Winston also hooked up with tight end Cameron Brate on a 46-yard completion. The Buccaneers are the only team in the NFL this season to have two different tight ends make 40+-yard catches in the same game. In fact, only one other team has had two 40+-yard catches by a single tight end in the same game this year. Philadelphia's Brent Celek had 60 and 40-ard grabs against Miami on Nov. 15.

In last week's Football Geekery, we noted that the Buccaneers have an unusually high number of first and second-year players figuring prominently in their passing attack in 2015. That starts with Winston, the 21-year-old rookie passer, of course, but it also includes a good number of his favorite targets this year. When Seferian-Jenkins and Brate made the big plays described above, they both pushed their season receiving yardage totals past 250 yards. Seferian-Jenkins and Brate both entered the NFL in 2014, the former as a second-round draft pick and the latter as an undrafted free agent.

Meanwhile second-year wide receiver Mike Evans is the team leader with 1,107 receiving yards and second-year running back Charles Sims is third with 487. Rookie wide receiver Adam Humphries has pitched in with 260 yards on 27 catches. That makes the Buccaneers just the fourth team since the 1970 merger to have at least five different first or second-year players get to 250 receiving yards in the same season.

Five or More First or Second-Year Players with 250+ Receiving Yards

Team

Season

No.

Players

NYG

1985

5

Adams, Bavaro, B. Johnson, Manuel, McConkey

TEN

2005

5

B. Jones, Roby, Scaife, Troupe, R. Williams

STL

2009

5

Amendola, Avery, Burton, Fells, Gibson

TB

2015

5

Brate, Evans, Humphries, Seferian-Jenkins, Sims

Evans has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, joining Randy Moss as the only players to do so before the age of 23. He currently owns the 10th-highest single-season receiving yardage total in team history and could move as high as fifth place with a 150-yard game at Carolina in the season finale. That's not an outrageous suggestion, as Evans already has three 150-yard outings this season (though a strong Panthers' defense adds a note of caution to any prediction).

Most Receiving Yards, Single Season, Buccaneers

Player

Season

Yards

  1. Mark Carrier

1989

1,422

  1. Vincent Jackson

2012

1,384

  1. Joey Galloway

2005

1,287

  1. Keyshawn Johnson

2001

1,266

  1. Antonio Bryant

2008

1,248

  1. Vincent Jackson

2013

1,224

  1. Michael Clayton

2004

1,193

  1. Kevin House

1981

1,176

  1. Keenan McCardell

2003

1,174

10. Mike Evans

2015

1,107

Evans has a 15.8 yards-per catch average that ranks 15th in the NFL and is one of the better single-season marks in franchise history among leading receivers. In fact, Evans is one of just five players in team history to average at least 15 yards per catch on 70 or more receptions.

Player

Year

Rec.

Avg.

Vincent Jackson

2012

72

19.2

Mark Carrier

1989

86

16.5

Mike Evans

2015

70

15.8

Vincent Jackson

2013

78

15.7

Joey Galloway

2005

83

15.5

Antonio Bryant

2008

83

15.0

As Joe Kania noted on Monday, the Buccaneers are on pace to break their single-season team record for net yards. At 5,628, they've already reached their second-best total, and they're just 192 yards behind the standard of 5,820 set in 2012. A 372-yard outing in the season finale at Carolina would get the team to 6,000 yards in a season for the first time, and the Bucs are currently averaging 375 per outing.

The 2012 team got its record total on 1,008 plays, averaging 5.77 yards per snap, which was also a single-season franchise record. The 2015 team is on pace to run almost the exact some number of plays (1,009), so it would obviously set the team record for yards per play if it surpassed that 2012 total of 5,820. In fact, the Bucs are currently averaging 5.95 yards per play.

As Kania noted, the Bucs rank seventh in the NFL in yards per game, which if maintained would be the team's highest finish on that chart ever, besting a ninth-place standing in 2012. Tampa Bay also currently ranks 10th in the NFL on defense, which of course is a far more common occurrence in team history. The Bucs have enjoyed 14 previous seasons of top-10 defensive rankings, including the top spot in 1979, 2002 and 2005. What the current team has a chance to do is finish in the top 10 in both offense and defense, something it has done just once before. That was in 2003, when the defending Super Bowl champs ranked 10th on offense and fifth on defense. At the moment, Tampa Bay is one of six teams ranked in the top 10 on both sides, and the other five are all currently holding on to playoff spots: Cincinnati, New England, the N.Y. Jets, Arizona and Seattle.

The Buccaneers gained 389 yards against Chicago on Sunday while giving up 327, but they lost by five points, in part due to one very big missed opportunity in the red zone. Safety Harold Jones-Quartey's interception of a pressured Winston pass at the Chicago goal line marked the first time since Week Four that the Buccaneers had breached the opponent's red zone but not come away with any points. Since a pair of missed field goals against Carolina in Week Four, the Bucs had scored on 34 consecutive drives inside the 20 before Jones-Quartey's pick.

That ill-fated pass was the first red zone interception the Bucs' rookie passer has thrown all season. Meanwhile, Winston has tossed 22 touchdown passes, the most ever for a Buccaneer rookie and close to the most any NFL rookie has thrown since the merger. Winston has already tied the fourth-highest touchdown pass total in Tampa Bay annals.

Most Touchdown Passes, Single Season, Buccaneers

Player

Season

TD Passes

  1. Josh Freeman

2012

27

2. Brad Johnson

2003

26

3. Josh Freeman

2010

25

4t. Brad Johnson

2003

22

4t. Jameis Winston

2015

22

Most Touchdown Passes, Single Season, NFL Rookie, Since 1970

Player

Team

Season

TD Passes

1t. Peyton Manning

IND

1998

26

1t. Russell Wilson

SEA

2012

26        

  1. Andrew Luck

IND

2012

23

4. Jameis Winston*

TB

2015

22

5t. Cam Newton

CAR

2011

21

5t. Derek Carr

OAK

2014

21

7t. Andy Dalton

CIN

2011

20

7t. Robert Griffin III

WAS

2012

20

7t. Dan Marino

MIA

1983

20

10t. Mike Glennon

TB

2013

19

10t. Marcus Mariota*

TEN

2015

19

10t. Jim Plunkett

NE

1971

19

  • Winston has thrown for 3,717 yards and is on pace for 3,965 after one more outing. That would be the third-highest mark for an NFL rookie since the merger; he's already fourth on that list and is virtually guaranteed to pass Peyton Manning and move up a spot. Winston is also likely to finish with the second-most passing yards in Buccaneer history, rookie or not.

Most Passing Yards, Single Season, NFL Rookie, Since 1970

Player

Team

Season

Yards

  1. Andrew Luck

IND

2012

4,374

2. Cam Newton

CAR

2011

4,051

3. Peyton Manning

IND

1998

3,739     

4. Jameis Winston

TB

2015

3,717

5. Sam Bradford

STL

2010

3,512

6. Matt Ryan

ATL

2008

3,440

7. Andy Dalton

CIN

2011

3,398

8. Brandon Weeden

CLE

2012

3,385

9. Ryan Tannehill

MIA

2012

3,294

  1. Derek Carr

OAK

2014

3,270

Most Passing Yards, Single Season, Buccaneers

Player

Season

Yards

  1. Josh Freeman

2012

4,065

2. Brad Johnson

2003

3,811

3. Jameis Winston

2015

3,717

4. Josh Freeman

2011

3,592

5. Doug Williams

1981

3,563

For much of the game on Sunday, Winston enjoyed good protection in the pocket. He dropped back 30 times and was sacked only once. Tampa Bay's offense has improved to eighth in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play, thanks in large part to the fact that Winston has been taken down just three times in the last four games combined. That's a very nice run, one that no Buccaneer team has rivaled since 2007. The last time Tampa Bay allowed three or fewer sacks in a four-game stretch was Games 3-6 in '07, with a total of two allowed across games against St. Louis, Carolina, Indianapolis and Tennessee.

While offensive linemen do not generate many stats apart from games and starts, they are usually judged by how well their team runs the ball and protects the passer. The Bucs' offensive line has been considered a pleasant surprise all season, and despite starting two rookies in left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet, it has fared well in those two categories. In fact, Tampa Bay has one of just three offenses in the NFL that ranks in the top 10 in both sacks per pass play and rushing yards per game.

Team

SPP*

Rank

Rush YPG

Rank

Tampa Bay

.048

8

139.0

4

Arizona

.046

6

126.0

6

St. Louis

.040

3

121.7

8

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