Postscripts — Camp Battles 2.0

Bucsblitz.com Buccaneers Expert Matthew Postins revisits an earlier edition of Postscripts to update readers on the competition at five key positions — and to add another to the list.

A week ago at this time I outlined what I thought would be training camp's five hottest position competitions, based on what I knew the Buccaneers hoped to accomplish at training camp with each position and what players I either knew to be competing or thought would be competing at those positions.

Naturally, things change.

Simeon Rice was released. Chris Simms' elbow is sore. Young players emerge as potential stars. Veterans aren't ready to give up their jobs yet.

It's been a competitive camp thus far. I thought it would be a good idea to recap those five positions battles, what I thought would happen and what has happened in this edition of Postscripts.

1. Left guard

Last year's starter: Dan Buenning, Sean Mahan.

The players: Anthony Davis, Arron Sears.

What I initially thought: That Davis and Sears would compete for the job, with Davis winning.

What's happened so far?: The early competition is down to those two. Buenning has worked exclusively at center, as I thought he would, and Matt Lehr really isn't factoring into this race. I haven't been impressed with the former Falcon during camp and I'm not entirely sure he'll make the team. Davis and Sears are trading reps with the first group of linemen and both have looked solid thus far. Not spectacular, just solid. Sears doesn't seem to have fallen behind much despite missing the mini-camp in June.

My pre-camp winner: Davis.

Currently: Davis is still ahead of Sears, but I'm watching this position with interest when the Pats come to town.

2. Under tackle

Last year's starters: Anthony McFarland, Jon Bradley, Ellis Wyms.

The players: Wyms, Kevin Carter, Jovan Haye, Greg Peterson.

What I initially thought: That Carter would win the job.

What's happened so far?: My prediction was based on two things — Rice being a Buccaneers and Haye not playing at such a high level. But when Rice was released it caused a ripple effect, and not just on the right side. The chances of using Gaines Adams or Patrick Chukwurah to back up Greg Spires on the left side disappeared, moving Carter outside. Haye, meanwhile, has played so well in camp that the need for Carter to take reps inside decreases by the day. I haven't seen Carter work inside once during training camp.

My pre-camp winner: Carter.

Currently: Haye has a big lead on Wyms and Peterson. It's his job to lose.

3. No. 2 wide receiver

Last year's starter: Michael Clayton, Ike Hilliard, Maurice Stovall.

The players: Clayton, Stovall.

What I initially thought: That Stovall would win the job.

What's happened so far?: Stovall's play the first week of camp has validated my prediction. He's playing at a higher level than Clayton, in my opinion. That's not to say that Clayton has performed poorly. He's actually having a very good camp, and there's a prominent place for Clayton in this offense. But Stovall does something every day in camp that impresses me and leads me to believe he can be the explosive counterpoint to veteran Joey Galloway.

My pre-camp winner: Stovall.

Currently: Stovall, with Clayton a pretty easy choice right now to be the No. 3. And that's not a bad thing.

4. Strong side linebacker

Last year's starter: Ryan Nece.

The players: Nece, Cato June.

What I initially thought: That June would win the job.

What's happened so far?: The job is June's. Nece is backing up Barrett Ruud at middle linebacker. It's interesting to note that when June sat out a workout earlier in camp, Nece didn't move over to the strong side. Rookie Quincy Black moved up to the first group. The Bucs have no desire to play anyone else at that position besides June.

My pre-camp winner: June.

Currently: June. There is no competition, unless June gets hurt. In fact, this battle will likely be replaced by the battle I'm adding to the list this week (No. 6, below). It's training camp — you have to stay flexible, you know.

5. Safety

Last year's starters: Jermaine Phillips, Will Allen.

The players: Phillips, Allen, Sabby Piscitelli, Tanard Jackson, Kalvin Pearson.

What I initially thought: That Phillips and Allen would keep the job.

What's happened so far?: I've actually been impressed with Phillips and Allen so far in camp (and I've been critical of them in the past, I admit). The presence of Piscitelli and Jackson, who have performed well the first week, appears to have given the pair of starters the swift kick in the butt they needed. Secondary coach Raheem Morris wants the rookies ready because he believes safeties rarely make it through a 16-game season, so they'll see a lot of time in preseason. But, right now, I don't see turnover at the top.

My pre-camp winners: Phillips and Allen.

Currently: Phillips and Allen will keep their starting jobs, but cede some time to the rookies.

And a late addition…

6. Backup quarterback

Last year's starters: Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay

The players: Simms, Gradkowski, Luke McCown.

What I initially thought: That Simms, once Jeff Garcia asserted himself in camp as the unquestioned No. 1, would win the job.

What's happened so far?: This was one of my "under the radar" jobs in an earlier edition of Postscripts, but it's moved up my list due to recent events. Simms' balky elbow has dropped him behind McCown and Gradkowski and has put him in danger, I think, of being a camp casualty. It's really too soon to tell, with more than week until the first preseason game. But Simms spent four days as basically a bystander during practice entering Thursday. It's up to him when he throws again. His task has been made harder by one of his closest friends on the team, McCown, who may be having the best camp by any offensive player besides Garcia. It's true that McCown hasn't taken a live snap since his rookie season in 2004, but he's shown plenty of promise and ability during training camp, enough to validate his feverish rehab from a knee injury a year ago and place him directly behind Garcia in the pecking order. Gradkowski, right now, is a solid No. 3, which is really where he should have been on last year's depth chart. He's had a solid camp, and I'm interested in seeing how he performs in preseason, in terms of progress in reading coverages, something I thought he really struggled with a year ago.

My pre-camp winner: Simms.

Currently: If there was an official depth chart, it would read Garcia, McCown, Gradkowski and Simms.


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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