Make the most of your opportunities.
It's good advice in any aspect of life, but this mantra holds particular value for young, unproven players in the NFL seeking to earn a foothold on a long-term roster spot. It's also easier said than done, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe has taken the adage to heart, and it shows.
Briscoe was a sixth-round pick by the Bengals in 2010 but was released in September before joining the Bucs' practice squad (the Bengals reportedly had interest in keeping Briscoe around in this manner, too). The Kansas product didn't see action until the final two games of the 2010 campaign, but true to form, he took advantage of his chance to shine.
Briscoe recorded six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown over those final two games, and he used that strong finish as a launch pad toward making the 53-man roster in 2011 and earning a bigger role in the Tampa Bay offense.
"I always try to progress each season I'm in the league, and I think I've matured as a player, on and off the field, as far as taking care of my body and whatnot," Briscoe said. "So I feel like I've gotten a whole lot better since last year. I think [the NFL game] is a lot faster than college, but I think I've grown as far as being a smarter player on the field, recognizing coverages a lot faster, knowing when I have to break my routes off, and getting open faster."
The statistics back up Briscoe's claims. He has continued to make plays when it matters most, and has come on strong down the stretch once again. Briscoe has tallied 26 receptions for 328 yards on the season, and leads the team with four touchdown catches.
As any Bucs player would agree, personal statistics mean nothing when team is in the midst of a season as frustrating as the 2011 campaign has turned out to be, but Briscoe admits he is pleased with his play.
"I think I've taken advantage of opportunities when they've come to me," Briscoe said. "That's all I can do to help the team win. But in a down season, it's hard to look at individual goals. You always want to win before individuals goals."
Interestingly, Briscoe's five touchdown catches out of his first 32 receptions as a Buccaneer place him in some rare company when it comes to making catches count. Among all Bucs with at least 30 career catches, Briscoe is currently the all-time leader in percentage of catches that went for touchdowns at 15.63 percent.
Furthermore, he is tied with teammate Mike Williams for the sixth-fastest Buccaneer in team history to reach five touchdown catches, accomplishing the feat on just his 31st overall reception.
While certain NFL receivers have skill sets that make them dangerous red zone targets and therefore see a higher number of plays drawn up for them near the goal line – Calvin Johnson comes to mind – Briscoe says there's nothing particularly unique about himself or the Bucs play-calling that explains his penchant for crossing the goal line on such a high percentage of his catches.
"I think the coaches put me in a good position to make the plays, and then it's up to me to execute," Briscoe said. "I think I've done a good job of that, and it's paid off."
While the Bucs' young offense has had its share of ups and downs this season, a young nucleus of talented players at the skill positions – headlined by quarterback Josh Freeman – gives hope for a potent attack in the years to come.
Briscoe and the Bucs' other young wideouts – Mike Williams, Preston Parker, Arrelious Benn, Sammie Stroughter and Micheal Spurlock – weren't afforded the luxury of a full offseason to work with Freeman and the rest of the Bucs offense heading into the 2011 campaign. But, Briscoe says the group is looking to end the season on a high note and get to work towards 2012.
"We've been talking about it the past couple of days," Briscoe said. "We're looking forward to finishing off strong and getting into the offseason and developing our game and getting a chemistry with our quarterback.
"We're all young, we're all hungry, and we're not selfish. I think that's a good thing. We're going out and giving effort every play, trying to do our job to the best of our ability. We all depend on each other. We all take responsibility when things go wrong, and when things go right, we congratulate each other and try to stay consistent."
Consistency is perhaps one of the most critical aspects involved when it comes to turning limitless potential into actual results. And while the 2011 season hasn't gone entirely as planned for the Bucs, Briscoe says both he as an individual, and the team as a whole, are still focused on doing things right in the last two games of the season and building momentum towards next year and beyond.
"We always look to fix the problems that have gotten us on this losing streak that we have, and we're going into practice looking to beat Carolina and get the execution part right," Briscoe said. "We want to go out there and do our jobs and make stuff happen."
"Individually, my goal is to go out there and make every play that comes my way, make sure I give 100 percent effort, make every block, and make every catch that comes my way. As a team goal, it's just to win. No turnovers, just go out and execute, and play like we know we can play."