The Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been missing one key piece from their offense for most of this season. Despite this, their young quarterback has been improving, which is a good sign for this struggling franchise. Dave Archibald takes a look at Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the potential impact his return will have.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked on his way to a breakout campaign in 2015 with 137 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches (10 targets) in his first two games, but a shoulder injury suffered in Week 2, has kept him out of action through Week 10. In the interim, the Buccaneers have continued to be highly efficient throwing to tight ends, completing 70% of their passes at 7.8 yards per attempt. However, the position has been almost an afterthought, with Brandon Myers, Cameron Brate, and Luke Stocker combining for just 30 targets. With Seferian-Jenkins’s return imminent, Tampa Bay might be able to put its tight end pass plays back in the playbook and improve the 24th-ranked scoring offense.
Seferian-Jenkins was a dynamic receiving threat in college at the University of Washington, and in Week 1 Tampa Bay showed it believes he can create mismatches in the NFL:
Tampa Bay aligns quarterback Jameis Winston (#3) in the shotgun with three receivers (trips) left. Seferian-Jenkins is split out wide as the only receiver on the right side. The Tennessee Titans show press man coverage under a Cover 1 shell with safety Michael Griffin (#33) matched up on the tight end. The Titans run a double A gap blitz, so Winston must get the ball out quickly. Fortunately, Tampa Bay has the perfect playcall. Seferian-Jenkins gives a quick feint outside and then runs a slant, beating Griffin to the inside. The veteran safety whiffs on the tackle, as does Da’Norris Searcy (#21), coming in from his deep centerfield position. If Seferian-Jenkins can continue to show this ability to beat man coverage and run after the catch, the Bucs will have a dangerous mismatch weapon to pair with their rookie quarterback.
Into the Deep
Tampa Bay can also use Seferian-Jenkins’s physical gifts to attack the deep part of the field:
The Buccaneers run this play from 21 personnel and a run-heavy look, with Seferian-Jenkins lined up as a conventional tight end in a three-point stance. He runs a deep over pattern, crossing to the opposite side of the field. New Orleans Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony (#50) fails to get a jam at the line and doesn’t have the footspeed to stay with the tight end.
Play design helps here, too – both outside receivers run vertical routes, occupying the deep safeties (in a 2 Man shell) just long enough to give Winston the opportunity to thread the pass in to Seferian-Jenkins. A healthy Seferian-Jenkins gives him another weapon, along with big receivers Vincent Jackson – who has not played since Week 7 – and Mike Evans, that defenses must respect downfield.
In Seferian-Jenkins’s absence, Tampa Bay has featured the tight end in the offense less, averaging fewer than four targets per game. Many of these targets are quick hitches and option routes against zone coverage. When they go for a bigger play, it’s often schemed rather than exploiting matchups:
The Buccaneers line up in a heavy look with three tight ends against the Atlanta Falcons. They fake a zone run left, but Winston bootlegs back toward the right. Myers (#82), lined up tight on the left side, runs up the seam to draw the deep defender in the Falcons’ Cover 3. Brate (#84) initially blocking on the right side, leaks out across the formation and into the zone vacated by Myers’s seam route. The run fake draws up the linebackers and Winston’s boot action right pulls them away from the area Brate attacks. There are no defenders to cover the former Harvard tight end, and Winston hits him with a 28-yard pass.
No one knows how close to 100% Seferian-Jenkins will be when he returns or exactly how Tampa Bay will integrate him into their offense, but if his first two games are any indication, the Buccaneers view him as a matchup weapon wherever he lines up. They’ve been efficient throwing to tight ends in Seferian-Jenkins’s absence, mostly on schemed plays, and if they can combine that efficiency with more emphasis on throwing to the position, Seferian-Jenkins can emerge as a fantasy star down the stretch.
He’s owned in only 31% of Yahoo fantasy leagues – if you’re struggling to find adequate production at the tight end position, he’s worth picking up for a potential upgrade. Given the uncertainty, he’s too risky to start right away, but if you can stash him for a week or two you might have a gem for the end of the regular season and the fantasy playoffs.
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Dave Archibald knows pass defense, specifically how coverage, the pass rush, excellent cornerbacks, versatile safeties and in-game adjustments can make a big difference.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.