NFL

Todd Bowles says Russell Gage standing out in Bucs’ crowded WR room: ‘I don’t think we’ve covered him yet’

The Buccaneers’ signing of Julio Jones garnered most of the attention at the start of training camp, but the other former Falcon that Tampa Bay added this offseason is earning early praise.

Coach Todd Bowles singled out Russell Gage for a strong start to camp.

“The receivers are doing a good job,” Bowles said Friday, per the team’s official website. “Gage has really been the one to stand out. I don’t think we’ve covered him [on a route] yet. He’s been doing a good job the past couple of days. Again, we’re out of pads, but he’s a guy that flashes and shows quickness and fluidity and everything else that I’ve seen the past two days.”

After signing a three-year, $30 million contract in Tampa, Gage missed offseason workouts and was held out of minicamp last month due to an injury. But the former Falcons wideout hit the ground running in training camp.

“It helps so much just being out there on offense, learning what Tom (Brady) does, what he expects out of me and just kind of hitting the ground running,” Gage said. “Playing and getting that experience with guys is always the best way to learn and to get ahead of the game, ahead of the system. That’s been the biggest thing so far, I think.”

Gage proved last season he’s an underrated receiver, netting 66 catches and 770 yards with four TDs in the Falcons’ decimated wideout room. In Tampa, he’s projected to take slot snaps, particularly if Chris Godwin’s return from an ACL injury comes along slowly.

When Gage signed this offseason, he projected as the No. 3 wideout alongside Mike Evans and Godwin and insurance if the latter’s rehab hit a snag. With Godwin avoiding the physically unable to perform list and the addition of Jones, the Bucs receiver room is crowded.

“Signing Julio was not only for the long haul; it was just as much doing different things on offense and being able to replace (Rob Gronkowski) ‘s catches,” Bowles said. “Gronk had a lot of catches and showed up in a lot of areas. We’ll approach things a little bit differently since we’ve got a bunch of receivers.”

With Gage standing out to start camp, it will be interesting to see how the Bucs deploy their cavalcade of receiver weapons.

After being mentored by Jones for three years in Atlanta, Gage knows one thing for certain:

“A healthy Julio is a problematic Julio.”

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