The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been fascinated by Austin Seferian-Jenkins' talent and potential for more than two years, ever since they drafted him higher than any other tight end in franchise history. Heading into his third season, Seferian-Jenkins may have found the key to fully unlocking that potential. The answer is in the details.
The 38th-overall pick in the 2014 draft, Seferian-Jenkins has suited up for only half of Tampa Bay's games since his arrival and he has finished each season with exactly 21 receptions. For the most part, it has been bad luck with injuries that has kept him out of action, but in the run-up to the 2016 season it's competition at the tight end position that has him battling for reps. Cameron Brate, a former undrafted player out of Harvard, is currently occupying the top spot on the depth chart.
As was the case during an OTA practice in June](http://www.buccaneers.com/news/article-smith/Austin-Seferian-Jenkins-My-Coach-Was-Right/1873f022-2a9d-49bc-b210-3ff670d1aa87), when Head Coach Dirk Koetter sent him out of practice early due to a lack of preparation, Seferian-Jenkins has responded by openly accepting his responsibility in creating his current situation. In this case, that "situation" is still a prominent place on the depth chart and a very real opportunity to make an impact. Lately, he's been doing exactly that on the practice field.
"It is what it should be right now," said Seferian-Jenkins. "Whatever it is, the coaches know it. I'm a player, the coaches coach, and those guys know what they're doing. So whatever the depth chart is, the depth chart is. I'm just thankful to be out here playing football and doing what I love. I don't care what the depth chart is, I'm going to enjoy it and I'm going to seize every opportunity that I get because that's the most important thing. Hundreds of thousands of people would love to be out here playing the game that we play.
"I'm going to be the best two [on the depth chart], be the best three, be the best four – whatever I've got to be, I'm going to be the best I can be. So I'm enjoying it, I'm seizing the opportunities and, like I said, I'm really enjoying it, I'm loving the game and it's just been great energy all the way around."
Brate, who stepped in while Seferian-Jenkins was sidelined last year and became the team's best pass-catching tight end, has not slowed down after his quick start to camp. He has earned his frequent targets from quarterback Jameis Winston and has continued to improve as a blocker. Brate turned a mere 30 targets into 23 catches for 288 yards and three touchdowns in 2015 and looks like a strong candidate to get more targets this year. To catch Brate, as Koetter has made it clear, Seferian-Jenkins simply needs to play better, and in recent practices that seems to be the case. The former University of Washington standout has made several acrobatic catches down the middle of the field in the last two camp practices.
Tight Ends Coach Jon Embree brings his players out to the practice field early for blocking drills and other technique work, and the individual-position drills once practice begins focus on much of the same. Responding to prompting from Koetter, Seferian-Jenkins has embraced technique work and attention to detail with a renewed vigor, and he believes that is what is making a difference in his performance.
"I've unfortunately never been a really fundamental, detail-oriented guy," he said. "That's the truth and I think that's what kind of held me back. Coach has definitely been harping on me and getting on me about, if you want to be a great player, if you want to be what we want you to be, you've got to be detail-oriented, you've got to be doing all those things. It's been great for me and I've been really enjoying it. I've been really seizing every opportunity I can get. Nothing is going to be perfect; I fail all the time. I fail all the time, because that's your first attempt at learning."
Seferian-Jenkins describes his efforts to improve as a "day-by-day" and "hour-by-hour" process, one that he is actively enjoying by just living in the moment. Koetter insisted that the rearranging of the depth chart was not a motivational ploy but Seferian-Jenkins certainly seems motivated. Similarly, he called his ouster from practice in June a "wake-up call." What's clear is that he still believes he can be an outstanding player in the NFL, and that his coaches still see his potential.
"[Koetter] is a detail-oriented guy," said Seferian-Jenkins. "If I want to be the great player that I'm capable of being – I can be a really special player – I've got to be detail-oriented. And Coach Koetter is not going to let me be below that. He wants me to be a great player and he won't settle for being average, he won't settle me for being good, and he won't really settle me for being great. I want to be special and he wants me to be special and I'm working towards that and I respect him to the fullest."