By Tom Krasniqi (Twitter: @TKras)
It’s plain to see when you’re out at Buccaneers training camp. If you watch the positional and team drills, they stand out. The wide receivers are making plays all over the field and it’s not only the starters, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, it’s the entire group.
There’s no doubt wide receiver is the deepest position on the team. And that means fierce competition at training camp. VJax and Williams are entrenched as the starters. Behind them, there’s a great competition between Tiquan Underwood and Kevin Ogletree for the #3 spot. Behind them, there’s Chris Owusu who’s having an outstanding camp. Behind that is Tampa product and former USF wideout Carlton Mitchell along with another veteran in Derek Hagan. Head coach Greg Schiano says he’s not sure how many receivers the team will keep. “Right now, we’re just trying to figure out who our 3 is,” Schiano said. “And from there, what our 4 and 5 look like… and is there a 6, or is a 6 a practice [squad] guy. We’ll see.”
The group is stacked. Which means a talented receiver will likely be elsewhere in a couple of weeks. Mitchell knows the odds are stacked against him. “It’s the NFL so there’s always competition,” Mitchell said after Friday’s practice. “Whether I’m the starter or the last person on the depth chart, you can’t take nothing for granted”.
Mitchell was a 6th round pick of the Browns back in 2010. He was cut by the Browns last summer. Mitchell was then signed and released by the Jaguars in November. The Cowboys signed him in January but then let him go in May. A few days later, the Bucs came calling in early June. “It happened quick. I just left Dallas. Shelton Quarles called me and said ‘how far are you from the facility?’… I said ‘about 15-20 minutes’. He said ‘OK, be here by 1:45pm’ and it was like 1:20pm or something,” laughed Mitchell. But it was dream come true to get the call from your hometown team.
Mitchell is often seen doing extra work after practice when the rest of the team is back inside. He says VJax has been a terrific influence on him. “Vince is awesome,” gushed Mitchell. “Going into his 9th year, he’s a true professional. If he sees me doing something wrong, he’ll explain it to me……just telling me what I need to do and I really appreciate him.”
He reported to camp in great shape (6-3, 210lbs) and claims he’s running in the “4.3s” in the 40. Mitchell knows he needs to showcase his talent during preseason games if he’s going to have any chance of making this team or somebody else’s squad for that matter. “More than ready [for the preseason],” Mitchell said. “I’m excited about it. I gotta put my work on film and just go out there and do my part. Leave the rest in God’s hands”.
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