Annually, preseason provides NFL players the chance to solidify a starting role and make the coveted 53-man roster. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first four spots on the depth chart at receiver are entrenched with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage Jr., and Julio Jones. However, the fifth and sixth receiver spots are open for the taking. On Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium in the Buccaneers' preseason opener, Tyler Johnson garnered cheers from a sea of red.
Against the Miami Dolphins, Johnson tallied six receptions for 73 yards. He had two consecutive explosive plays in the first quarter, the first on an underneath route where he made several defenders miss after the catch. The second - a leaping grab down the seam in traffic.
"I felt comfortable out there just being able to play fast," Johnson described. "The quarterback just helped put me in the best situation…just to be able to go out and execute, trust our training, was amazing tonight.
"Just waited for my moment and trusted the process. Put my head down and have gone to work every day."
Throughout training camp, Johnson has accumulated splash plays on the grass at the AdventHealth Training Center. Johnson has made several acrobatic catches over the summer, fighting for the ball in contested situations with steady rep production. With his versatility to stretch the field vertically and horizontally, Johnson has become a reliable target. Over the past two seasons, Johnson registered 48 receptions for 529 yards and two touchdowns. With Godwin's recovery from January's knee surgery, combined with Evans and Russell Gage both nursing minor hamstring injuries, Johnson has taken full advantage of opportunities between the hash marks.
"He's made a lot of strides in just knowing - he's always had a good feel for just knowing how to get open and finding holes in zones - he has just continued to master that, and I think if he does that, he will continue to help our team like he has in the past," Kyle Trask stated.
As Johnson continues to learn the nuances of the Buccaneers' route-running and how to gain leverage against defensive backs in man and zone, he has the potential to cement an integral role in Byron Leftwich's arsenal. Johnson has consistently showcased rare leaping ability and body control, rising his stock in 2022. If his ascension continues, Johnson could land one of the envied spots in the Buccaneers' aerial assault. He certainly put a stamp in his roster bid on Saturday against Miami.