Bucs Training Camp Preview — Wide Receivers

BucsBlitz.com's countdown to training camp continues with a preview of the Buccaneers' wide receivers. Each day BucsBlitz.com will break down a different position leading up to reporting day in Orlando on July 26.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Joey Galloway (starter), Michael Clayton (starter), David Boston, Jovon Bouknight, Chas Gessner, Ike Hilliard, Mark Jones, Chad Lucas, Chad Owens, Kyle Smith, Maurice Stovall, Paris Warren.

At the most, the Buccaneers are likely to keep six wide receivers on the opening day roster. They've finished each of the last two seasons with five wide receivers.

Galloway is the stud of the group. His numbers the past two seasons, which included back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, indicate that he is still one of the league's most dangerous deep threats. He's still only a marginal threat over the middle, but what he does best — vertical routes — is something no one else on the roster can match. He's 35, though, so the Bucs must be careful with him.

Clayton has not match his stellar 2004 rookie year. In fact, his 2005-06 numbers don't match what he did that season. So is he a bust? This may be the year we find out once and for all. He's the starter at flanker in name only. When he's healthy, he excels at finding the soft spots of zones. But now his hands are a question mark.

Stovall will push Clayton for his starting job. The Bucs love his size (6-goot-5) and speed. He's a viable red zone target that will tower over most NFL cornerbacks. He showed flashes of that ability in last season's final two games. He will get every chance to win the job.

Those three players are locks to make the roster. After that, every other receiver on the roster comes with question marks.

Boston is looking at his last chance to remake his career. Beset by injuries the past three years, Jon Gruden himself said Boston looks the best he's looked in years. The Bucs seem to think he can be a find on the level of a Chris Hovan in 2005. He's still strong, but will his body break down?

Bouknight lost his starting job in NFL Europa this spring. That doesn't bode well in this fierce competition.

Gessner was a Gruden favorite in 2006. But Gruden always has a penchant for the new guy. Gessner spent all of last season on the practice squad. One would assume he's improved, but his frame (6-5) is much like Stovall's, and he's not as fast.

Hilliard is a reliable veteran who seems happy with a backup role. He's skilled enough to start in a pinch, runs quality routes and is a solid locker room citizen. Plus, he doesn't cost a lot of money.

Jones and Owens have to be paired together because they're apparently competing for the kickoff and punt returner jobs. Gruden wants to pair those jobs together. Jones has the experience, but hasn't shown the ability to break long runs. Owens has the speed, but he has a reputation as a fumbler after two years in Jacksonville, where he couldn't win the job.

Lucas and Smith are camp fodder, nothing more. They'll likely be among the first cuts.

Warren is an interesting prospect who has somehow made it through two seasons on the active roster without doing much of anything. He had a great career at Utah, but he hasn't shown that ability at the pro level. He'll have to have a great preseason to justify another season on the active roster.

Postins' prediction: Galloway, Clayton, Stovall, Boston, Hilliard, Owens (also as returner), Warren.

Running backs

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.

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