TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneer pass catchers haven't done very much with the ball in their hands this year.
Through four games, the Bucs rank last in the league with 314 yards gained after the catch, but coach Greg Schiano doesn't believe his team will be stuck in the NFL basement much longer.
Schiano lauded rookie QB Mike Glennon's ability to throw the ball accurately and said the controversial switch from Josh Freeman to Glennon is already beginning to have a positive affect on his receivers' ability to catch the ball and run with it.
“When your receivers feel confident that they can catch the ball on the move and not have to reach back or reach up for it ... they catch the ball aggressively and start running through it,” Schiano said Thursday. “And that's when you get yards after the catch.''
Schiano suggested that with Freeman, who completed only 45.7 percent of his pass attempts this year, Bucs receivers got into a habit of having to reach one way or another for balls, particularly on short and intermediate routes.
He said it will take some time for Glennon's targets to break that habit.
“When people start to settle to catch the ball because, just by habit you have to be ready to go around to get it, you lose yards after catch,'' Schiano said. “And I see that (changing) slowly. Our guys are getting more and more confident and we just need to keep throwing it that way.''
Glennon wasn't all that accurate in his debut game against the Cardinals two weeks ago, completing 56 percent of his passes. Still, the Bucs were pleased with his ability to hit receivers in stride, particularly on crossing routes.
Players have sensed an improvement, too.
“Oh yeah, definitely,'' RB Doug Martin said. “When (Glennon) came here and the quarterbacks were passing balls to me, I could tell he was very accurate and threw a perfect spiral and has great touch on the ball. Great touch.''
Help on the way
With 18 career receptions in the NFL, TE Tom Crabtree can hardly be considered a savior for Tampa Bay's ailing attack.
But the Bucs believe Crabtree's presence can help if he makes his regular-season debut in pewter on Sunday. Signed as a free agent from Green Bay in March, Crabtree suffered a high ankle sprain in the final preseason game and has fully participated in practice this week.
“We saw enough from him that we felt there's a versatility there that enables us to have him be on the field and keep the defenses honest,'' Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “Is he going to be in pass protection? Is he going to release and do a vertical route or an intermediate route? We're hoping he gets back so we can take advantage of that.''
Crabtree, 27, was buried on the Packers depth chart for three seasons, but three of his eight catches last year resulted in touchdowns.
Third-year MLB Mason Foster is all over the stat line after four games, earning Schiano's praise. Foster has 28 tackles, including two for loss, with two sacks, two QB hits, an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown and three passes defended.
“I think he's playing better than he's ever played,'' Schiano said. “He's playing at a NFL middle linebacker level that you can get excited about.''