Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Position Battles in Bucs Camp

More positions are up for grabs this year than in the past for the Bucs and some guys are making pushes to take those starting jobs. The Bucs have competitions for starters on offense and defense, plus they have young guys that are pushing veterans for playing time. The tightest and most intense position battle is definitely at the wide receiver position. Joey Galloway is the clear cut number one, but the number two wide out is up for grabs and there are four guys trying to take the spot.


Back-Up QB

Jeff Garcia is the clear cut starter at quarterback, but the battle for number two is between three guys. While backup quarterback does not seem important, remember the Bucs have had to replace the injured starter in the past 3 seasons. Although Chris Simms signed a big contract in the off season, injuries have slowed him and he has fallen down the charts. Right now the depth chart is as follows:

  1. Jeff Garcia
  2. Luke McCown
  3. Bruce Gradkowski
  4. Chris Simms

Luke McCown has looked good in training camp so far, but he missed almost all of last year with a knee injury and was ineffective in his time in Cleveland. Now McCown is still young, has a great arm, is mobile, and looked great in OTA's last year before he went down, so I would not count him out. Jon Gruden has been singing McCown's praises this training camp much like he did with Gradkowski last year, so it seems he is the flavor of the month. Gradkowski has looked horrible in camp so far and is still under throwing his receivers on deep routes. Gradkowski can hit the short and intermediate passes, but just does not have the arm strength to hit the down field receivers. Simms would be the number two if he was healthy, but with all the injury concerns Simms has not been able to get much throwing in. When Simms has thrown his passes have looked horrible and he has not been able to throw farther than 15 yards. If you look at the depth chart there are three right handed mobile quarterbacks and one left handed non-mobile quarterback, I wonder who is the odd man out.

Tight End

The Bucs signed troubled tight end Jeremy Stevens in the off-season to compete with Alex Smith and Anthony Becht for the starting tight end job. Stevens had some nice years in Seattle, but ever since the drops in the Super Bowl he has not been the same and has multiple off the field problems. If Stevens gets back to his pre Super Bowl form he could be a great addition to this offense, which loves to use pass catching tight ends. Stevens will have trouble ousting incumbents Alex Smith and Anthony Becht. Smith is a great pass catching tight end who can also block rushers on the outside and Becht has been a great run blocking tight end for the Bucs since he has been here. The Depth chart as of now is:

  1. Alex Smith
  2. Anthony Becht
  3. Jeremy Stevens

Offensive Line

The Bucs biggest problem for the Bucs over the past couple of years has been a very porous offensive line. The right side was upgraded through the draft and looks to be solid with Davin Joeseph and Jeremy Trueblood, but the left side is still an unknown. The Bucs tried to solidify the left side by bringing in Luke Petitgout, Matt Lehr, and drafting Aaron Sears out of Tennessee. The Bucs are also getting Dan Buenning back from injury, but they have talked of moving him to center. The offensive line looks like this right now:

  • RT - Jeremy Trueblood, Anthony Davis
  • RG - Davin Joeseph, Matt Lehr
  • C - John Wade, Dan Buenning
  • LG - Anthony Davis, Aaron Sears
  • LT - Luke Petitgout, Anthony Davis

So far Petitgout has sat out more games than he has practiced, Aaron Sears is recovering from an injury, and Buenning is still getting back in the groove. The Bucs left side of the offensive line is still a question mark and if they do not shore it up it will be a long year for Jeff Garcia. Petitgout was supposed to be the steady left tackle, but he has not been practicing and Jon Gruden just said today that his back has been bothering him. If the Bucs were to start playing today I don't think that line would be any better than it was last year, and thats a problem.

Wide Receiver

The Bucs offense was anemic on all sides last year except for Joey Galloway. Galloway is back and is the number 1 wide out once again, but who will line up opposite him is still up for grabs. Michael Clayton is still living off of his rookie season and trying to prove it was not a fluke, but second year man Maurice Stovall has looked outstanding in OTA's and Training camp. Stovall also looked great in limited action towards the end of last year. Stovall has a great work ethic and has caught almost everything thrown his way. David Boston is back in camp for the Bucs and looks much better this year than he did last year. Boston has been able to go two a days so far in camp, but last year was limited to three practices a week. Boston is thankful for the opportunity and is showing that he still has talent left and will make this team. Ike Hilliard is quietly having a nice camp, but Hilliard is more of a three or four wide out in a system. The depth chart at the start of camp was:

  1. Joey Galloway
  2. Maurice Stovall
  3. Michael Clayton
  4. David Boston
  5. Ike Hilliard
  6. Paris Warren

Clayton is fighting to keep the job, but Boston and Stovall have looked better than Clayton so far in camp. My prediction is that Stovall becomes the number two starter by the end of the preseason.

Defensive Line

The Bucs have been known for their great defense, but last year they looked like a defense that didn't know what was going on. The Bucs did not get the penetration they need from the defensive line up the middle, nor did they get pressure off of the edge. The Bucs traded Booger MacFarland to the Colts mid season for a draft pick because he was not getting it done, and used that pick to draft more defense. The Bucs went almost all defense in the draft to try and reload the defense and get back to Buc ball. They also fired their D-line and Secondary coaches and brought back Raheem Morris and former Broncos' coordinator Larry Coyer. In a surprising move they cut Simeon Rice who was a mainstay on the line, thus thrusting rookie first rounder Gaines Adams into the starting role.

  • LE - Greg Spires, Patrick Chukwurah
  • DT - Chris Hovan, Ryan Sims, Greg Peterson
  • DT - Jovan Haye, Kevin Carter, Ellis Wyms
  • RE - Gaines Adams, Kevin Carter, Patrick Chukwurah

Gaines Adams has not looked dominant in camp and I would not be surprised if he was coming in during pass rush situations for most of the season. Kevin Carter looks good and has had a nice camp. Jovan Haye has impressed many of the coaches and has rocketed up the depth charts and is showing attitude that has been missed by the Bucs. Chukwurah is very versatile and can play as an end or stand up and be a LB in the 3-4, which the Bucs have practiced.

Secondary

The secondary, especially the safeties took a huge step back last year after Coach Morris left for Kansas State. Morris is back this year and has the secondary back and excited. Phillip Buchanon looked good last year in the Cover 2 and may have found the defense that best suits him. Buchanon has had a great camp and will be the third corner for the Bucs come the start of the season. Brian Kelly is back and healthy, which will take a lot of pressure off of Ronde Barber and allow him to blitz. The Safeties were horrible last year and they were sent a message by the organization in the off season when they drafted Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson in the draft. Piscitelli and Jackson are both young and athletic safeties that are ready to step in and try and take the starters' jobs. I think that Piscitelli may succeed and take the starting SS job, but Jackson will start behind Will Allen.

  • CB - Brian Kelly, Ronde Barber, Phillip Buchanon, Alan Zematis
  • SS - Jermaine Phillips, Sabby Piscitelli, Blue Adams
  • FS - Will Allen, Tanard Jakson, Calvin Pearson

The secondary will be worked hard by Raheem Morris and we shall see who comes out of it on top.

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