TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Adam Humphries walked off the practice field, drenched in sweat, and greeted word that he’s quietly worked his way into a prominent role in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense with a blank stare.
The second-year receiver entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent out of Clemson and is making the most of an opportunity to establish himself as a viable target for Jameis Winston.
Winston threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns as a rookie in 2015, however the Bucs got limited production from the wide receiver position beyond Mike Evans’ 74 catches for 1,206 yards and three TDs.
Knee injuries that kept six-time 1,000-yard receiver Vincent Jackson out of six games and sidelined experienced backup Louis Murphy the final 10 weeks of last season were part of the reason.
With Murphy still out, Humphries continues to impress coach Dirk Koetter and has emerged from a pack of young players that also includes Kenny Bell, Russell Shepard, Evan Spencer, Freddie Martino and Donteea Dye Jr., to become the No. 3 receiver behind Evans and Jackson, who appears to be healthy again.
“Let’s just end the big mystery about this No. 3 wide receiver, OK? Adam Humphries is going to be our No. 3 three wide receiver,” Koetter, the team’s offensive coordinator a year ago, said.
“You talk about the definition of consistent player, there’s Adam Humphries’s picture right there,” Koetter added. “Adam’s going to be our slot receiver, and then the battle for four, five, six and beyond, there’s some really good competition.”
Humphries appeared in 12 games as a rookie, finishing with 27 receptions for 260 yards and one TD, third among Tampa Bay wide receivers behind Evans and Jackson, who had 33 catches for 543 yards and three TDs to end his streak of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at four.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Humphries, undrafted after starting 27 of 53 games he appeared in at Clemson, learned about Koetter’s decision through reporters.
The receiver barely reacted to the news, noting it’s early in training camp and still a lot of work to do.
“Obviously, that’s good to hear from the head man, but got to keep the edge and keep working hard every day. I’ve got to earn the spot every day, no matter what he says,” Humphries said. “I can mess up or I can keep getting better.”
Winston, whose first NFL pass — intended for Humphries — was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Tennessee’s Coty Sensabaugh, said Humphries has earned the slot receiver spot.
“I’m not surprised by it at all. Adam is a great player for us. He’s a third-down machine,” the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft said.
“He’s had a great camp and last year he was one of my best targets,” Winston added. “You think about the first play of the year, me and that guy bounced back from that quickly and had a great season together.”
Evans, a third-year pro coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, agreed.
“He brings a lot,” Evans said. “He’s versatile. He can play inside and out. He’s tough. He goes hard every play … is a sure-handed guy, and he knows how to get open.”
Winston noted Humphries’ consistency and ability to shrug off bad plays was big, too. That brought a slight smile to the receiver’s face.
“Yeah, that’s the biggest thing … having a short memory. And, if you do mess up you can learn from that, correct it and get better,” Humphries said. “Mistakes are good sometimes, especially during camp. Everyone is going to mess up. You’ve got to take positives away from that and keep getting better.”
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