With Joe Hills returning to Jacksonville to play for the Sharks, there’s some pretty big shoes to fill in Tampa’s receiving corp, despite the addition of Kendal Thompkins. The good news is, there’s one guy who can easily become Randy Hippeard‘s new dependable target: LaMark Brown.
While Brown doesn’t quite have Hills’ quickness and ability to beat defenders on a deep ball, the fact that he has a 15-pound size advantage allows for extra power and physicality to break free at the line of scrimmage. That’s not only allowed him to be the clear-cut #3 receiver this season (61/660/13) but also for Tampa Bay to make him a target on screens, intermediate routes, and at the goal line.
The Storm will be happy to add more of these types of plays to their offense. It would not only help Hippeard get more comfortable at the beginning of games and help build early leads, but help build time of possession and slow down game tempo thanks to longer drives. With Hippeard still not 100 percent, the quicker he can get the ball out of his hand and avoid a hit, the better for him and the rest of the team during the stretch run.
The good news is with both Brown and Thompkins, they have two receivers that can line up on opposite sides to bully their way open. If the Storm need some hard yards, they can get it. If they need a long catch and run, also doable. (Think Washington’s duo of Charles McClain and Greg Carr). However, with Ings now more of a focus on going deep, this could force Ron James to make a decision on who becomes the primary kick returner.
Ings is second on the team in all receiving categories (63/701/14), but the leader in all return categories (34/663/1). If James sacrifices field position for offensive speed, then it’s a MUST to maintain, if not increase, offensive efficiency to keep pace with the offenses he’ll face the rest of the season.
The good news is there’s something of a test game for any changes coming up, as Tampa Bay hosts Washington in the lone Week 13 game. But, time is short, as the Storm then face Cleveland twice and Baltimore before a bye and a Week 18 matchup against Philadelphia. With all three of those teams jostling for playoff solidification, there’s very little margin for error, if any.
Either way, now secondaries will have to change their plans for when they face the blue and gold. They don’t have Superman to deal with anymore, but he wasn’t the lone member of the Justice League.