The Buccaneers better hope Jake Plummer DOESN'T show up for training camp. Yes, I was a proponent of getting him into camp, but that was two months ago, when the quarterback job was still unsettled. Now, Jeff Garcia is all but the starter. If you're a head coach trying to save your job, you don't want to rock that boat. Garcia needs all the reps he can get in training camp, and Plummer's sudden appearance would not only be a major distraction to the whole team, but also take snaps away from Garcia, Bruce Gradkowski and Chris Simms, three players who really need them. Plummer's attendance at training camp would turn the whole competition into a circus and undermine Garcia. Why? Because Gruden loves the "newest" quarterback. He has since he's arrived in Tampa, and Plummer showing up late is liable to make Gruden swoon and prompt him to select Plummer the starter at the first sign Garcia is having problems.
If I'm Chris Simms, I'm pretty ticked right now. The Bucs gave him starter money and gave him a veteran to compete with. Then he's basically demoted because of struggling mechanics. OK, fine, even he admitted that. Then, on Wednesday's second day of mini-camp, he doesn't take a snap in team drills. Gruden said he wanted Simms to take the time working on his mechanics and then said Simms would participate in team drills on Thursday. Then what does Gruden do? He cancels Thursday's workout. If Simms needs that much work, why didn't they practice? Gruden has little interest in Simms now. He has Garcia and Gradkowski (his latest pet project) to worry about. The best thing Simms can do now is make the roster and wait out this season to see if Gruden will be back in 2008. If Gruden returns, then force a trade. Plenty of teams will deal for a cannon-armed QB with five years of NFL experience. If Gruden does not return, then Simms gets the hope of a new head coach that will give him a fair shake. But he's not going to get it from Gruden.
My early candidate for training camp star is defensive tackle Jovan Haye. He's not the biggest lineman in camp (he's 6-fot-2, 285 pounds), but he's really caught the attention of coaches and media alike. Defensive line coach Larry Coyer really likes him, praising him after Wednesday's workout. His quickness inside, plus his ability to take on multiple defenders without losing ground, makes him a legitimate contender at the under tackle position. Haye had 25 tackles last year in his first NFL action with the Bucs last season.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said running back Cadillac Williams' burst was back this offseason and that his foot is no longer a concern. Just to be safe, I think the Bucs should siphon some of Williams' carries to Michael Pittman. It will allow Pittman to be a more effective runner, and lessen the wear and tear on Williams. Both Allen and Gruden have said Williams' pass-catching ability has improved greatly over last season.
Also, Allen refuses to admit there's more pressure on he and Gruden to win this year, despite what's obvious to everyone else. Doesn't matter how you ask him. He just won't admit it.
It's hard to determine how the Buccaneers will use first-round pick Gaines Adams this season. He's shared time at right defensive end with Julian Jenkins and pass-rushing linebacker Patrick Chukwurah during the offseason. He's definitely quick and can outrun everyone on the line except Simeon Rice. Allen said there is no thought of pairing Adams on the left side with Rice until defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Coyer are comfortable that Adams has the right side down cold. Two things strike me here. First, there are the words of Scout.com's own Tom Marino (a NFL scout with 30 years experience) who told me in April that Adams' best value his rookie season is as a third-down specialist. That would mean taking Rice off the field on third downs, which would be a mistake. So then wouldn't it behoove the Bucs to put Adams on the left? And why is Chukwurah getting his reps in four-front sets? Second, he probably needs to gain 10-15 pounds to play three downs in the NFL and I saw him up close Wednesday and he doesn't appear to have put much on his listed weight of 265 pounds. It's just curious to me, and Rice not saying anything during training camp leaves plenty to the imagination about how the two players are going to co-exist.
The Bucs ran the shotgun one time during two days of mandatory mini-camp. If this formation is such a big deal, shouldn't the quarterbacks and centers be practicing it more? I'll hold out judgment until training camp, but this may be another example of Gruden's inability to deviate from his own program, even if a particular player has a track record for success in a formation.
My early candidates for veteran cuts at the end of training camp include DE Greg Spires, G Dan Buenning, WR/KR Mark Jones and LB Jamie Winborn. Buenning may never be healthy enough to compete for a job this year. Jones has Chad Owens to contend with for returning duties, and Jones has never been explosive enough for Gruden's taste. Winborn has two young, swift linebackers chasing him in Quincy Black and Adam Hayward. And a release of Spires would be a big blow. He has value at end and tackle. But the competition at both disciplines will be fierce, and Spires' age (34) may work against him. He's not quite the physical specimen 33-year-old Kevin Carter is, and Spires may be a victim of the Bucs' overall youth movement.
One final tidbit. On Tuesday, when a reporter asked cornerback Ronde Barber how nice it was to have secondary coach Raheem Morris back in the fold, Barber reportedly got down on his knees, folded his hand in prayer and said, "Thank you, God." Geez, Ronde, tell us how you really feel.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.