Shepard took advantage of increased reps during Tuesday's opening mini-camp practice, Joe Kania of the team's official site reports. The 25-year-old special teams maven saw increased opportunity due to the Bucs being a bit short-handed at receiver, and maximized the extra reps. Shepard had three impressive receptions in traffic during the session, an encouraging sign considering he's only hauled in seven catches over his first two years in the league. The LSU product is one of several candidates vying for positions in the latter portion of the wide receiver depth chart, although his special-teams proficiency would figure to give him an added edge going in to the summer.
Shepard has signed his restricted free agent tender to remain with the Buccaneers this season. Shepard has been one of the Buccaneers' best players on special teams in recent seasons. In 223 special teams snaps across his 13 games played last term, Shepard registered 10 tackles, which followed 14 stops in 2014. Additionally, in returning to Tampa Bay, Shepard provides a spare utility wideout on offense.
The Bucs have tendered Shepard at the lowest level for restricted free agents, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The tender would call for a $1.67 million salary for 2016 for the reserve receiver and special teamer, and gives the Bucs the right to match any offer he might receive on the open market beginning Wednesday afternoon. The 25-year-old hauled in three of 10 targets for 28 yards and a touchdown over 209 snaps from scrimmage in 2015, struggling to make much of an impact despite a multitude of injuries the Tampa receiving corps. Shepard is most valued for his special teams work, where he was in on 223 plays and recorded 10 tackles (nine solo).
Shepard managed three catches (on 10 targets) for 28 yards and a touchdown in the 2015 season. The third-year pro was hardly a blip on the offensive radar in 2015, despite playing a total of 209 snaps from scrimmage. Shepard was unable to capitalize on the opportunities that came about as a result of knee injuries to fellow wideouts Louis Murphy and Vincent Jackson, with undrafted rookies Donteea Dye and Adam Humphries making a bigger impact. As was the case in 2014, Shepard's biggest contributions once again came on special teams, where he tallied 223 snaps. Absent a shuffling of the receiver depth chart prompted by unforseen personnel moves, the 25-year-old appears destined to battle with Dye and Humphries for a spot in the lower rungs of the wideout totem pole in 2016.
Shepard secured his sole target for 18 yards in Sunday's 26-21 loss to the Bears. The reserve receiver made his first appearance on the stat sheet since Week 11 against the Eagles. Shepard, like fellow wideouts Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye, received a boost in playing time due to Vincent Jackson's absence as a result of a knee injury. The LSU product may have a similar opportunity next week against the Panthers if Jackson sits out the season finale.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|3||09/25||Los Angeles Rams||6||18.50|
|7||10/23||@San Francisco 49ers||18||22.38|
|11||11/20||@Kansas City Chiefs||21||23.44|
|13||12/04||@San Diego Chargers||4||18.38|
|14||12/11||New Orleans Saints||28||25.13|
|16||12/24||@New Orleans Saints||28||25.13|
|3 Year Avg||6||2||30||0||2||15.00||3|