Arrelious Benn caught three passes for 18 yards on Sunday against the Redskins, which made him the team’s fourth-most productive receiver on the day, behind Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and the recently-re-signed Tiquan Underwood. Benn’s production is likely to ramp up over the course of the season as he feels more and more comfortable in his return from a knee injury, but in the meantime he is helping the team in a lot of other ways that don’t show up in the passing stats.
Since Week Two, Benn has taken over as the team’s primary kickoff returner, which has allowed the team a little more flexibility when deciding on its 46 active players on game day. Already almost certain to be active when he’s healthy, Benn is now a trusted return man, which means the team can choose to leave rookie running back Michael Smith inactive, as it has the past three weeks.
In addition, Benn is helpful in many other ways on special teams, and more than willing to contribute in that manner. Quietly, he has emerge as the team’s second-leading tackler in kickoff and punt coverage, with three special teams stop. He has exactly one in each of the three games in which he has played. Since he is so strong and considered a tough open-field runner, Benn is also a common choice on receiver end-arounds, that running-game changeup that almost every team goes to from time to time. Benn got the ball on one such play against Washington and found the corner to get five yards and pick up a first down on the Bucs’ first scoring drive of the day.
Benn primarily played flanker during his first two seasons in the league, as a starter opposite Mike Williams. With Vincent Jackson now in town, the Bucs have a starting pair ahead of Benn, which means he can increase his playing time by working out of the slot. In that regard, he is just one of several options the team has, though he may see more work in that regard as the season develops.
“With the flexibility of the system, the way they learn the system, all of our receivers can play in the slot,” said Head Coach Greg Schiano. “You’ve seen Vince there, you’ve seen [Benn], you’ve see Tiquan, you’ve even seen Mike there. So that part we can mix and match. [Benn] is coming off a long recovery and I think he’s getting stronger every practice. I think he’s working his tail off.”