The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' receiving corps is still taking shape for the 2012 regular season. The candidates currently on the depth chart will get one more significant opportunity to prove they should still be there after the final round of roster cuts on Friday. That opportunity is Wednesday night's preseason finale against the Washington Redskins.
There are plenty of battles still ongoing as the Bucs finalize their depth chart and 53-man roster. Few, however, are likely to play out in such intriguing fashion on Wednesday night as the bottom half of the receiving corps, simply because wideouts tend to be so visible on game day. Any given 20-yard catch might give the Bucs a first down and prolong a touchdown drive…and it might get that pass-catcher one step closer to a regular-season job.
Specifically, there are five wideouts who will be jockeying for position on Wednesday evening. Starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are not likely to play more than a brief cameo, if that, and 2011 starter Arrelious Benn is still recovering from a knee injury. After some recent cuts trimmed the group a bit, that leaves five receivers dividing most of the snaps against the Redskins: alphabetically, Landon Cox, Preston Parker, Jordan Shipley, Sammie Stroughter and Tiquan Underwood.
There are going to be four or five guys tonight that are going to get a lot of action," said Head Coach Greg Schiano. "It's the whole body of work. No decision will be made solely on the Washington preseason game, but it is part of their body of work because they're going to get to play more in this game probably than they have any other game. It's probably going to be a bigger percentage of their body of work. Then afterwards we'll make decisions based on their complete body of work."
The Bucs could keep anywhere from five to seven receivers, if typical NFL depth charts are any indication, and the most common number is six. As Schiano makes clear, the players who catch the most passes or make the most inspiring plays on Wednesday night are not necessarily the same ones the team will choose to keep through Friday. Obviously, though, a strong performance by any of the young receivers can only help.
That may be especially true for Shipley, who has only been with the team for about a week and a half. The former Cincinnati Bengal, claimed off waivers near the end of training camp, had an outstanding rookie season in 2010 but missed most of last year with a knee injury. He's now trying to prove he's all the way back from that injury, and that he can absorb a new offense quickly.
"Well, for his body of work we have to use his past NFL experience, what he's done on tape," said Schiano. "As a football player in this league, your video is your resume. He's had some situations since he put that video together; he had an injury that changes who he is unless he can come back from that injury the same. I think that's one of the things that can be evaluated right now."