Postscripts: Camp Battles 3.0

The position battles at training camp rage on as several Bucs have asserted themselves in the race to get into the starting lineup come September in Seattle.

We're now two weeks into training camp. In fact, most of camp is in the rear view mirror now. Camp breaks on Aug. 17 in Orlando, and we even now have a depth chart — however flexible Jon Gruden may think it is — to gauge our camp battles with.

In our third edition of Postscripts — Camp Battles, I'll update you on who's winning and who's losing the chance to start. I'll present an update of my Camp Battles — Jobs Under the Radar — next week.

1. Left guard

Last year's starters: 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.

How about now?: Sears will start the preseason opener on Friday, with Davis either starting at left tackle for the injured Luke Petitgout or backing up Sears (or, perhaps, both. Just not at the same time). Sears has come on strong the past week in this camp, judging from Gruden's comments about the rookie each day. He's become more physical with defenders the more comfortable he becomes in the system. Davis has had a solid camp. His best trait is that he doesn't make many mistakes. But he's not as physically punishing at Sears.

My pre-camp winner: Davis.

Currently: Sears has the lead, and a real chance to distance himself from Davis if he performs well with the first team on Friday night.

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.

How about now?: Haye is in the lead, but there's caution until he's seen in a live game. The Bucs are asking him to do it all this year — stop the run and rush the passer — which makes him a three-down tackle now. If he can show he can do both on Friday, and not wear down, the job may unquestionably be his by next week. If not, expect to see Wyms and Carter get more playing time there after next week.

My pre-camp winner: Carter.

Currently: Haye has a big lead on the field. 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.

How about now?: Stovall is No. 1 at that position opposite Joey Galloway and made a stupendous catch in camp the other day, leaping over the back of a cornerback to make a one-handed TD catch. Clayton, on the other hand, pulled something on Wednesday. This job is now Stovall's to lose, and he can create some separation with a great game on Friday.

My pre-camp winner: Stovall.

Currently: Stovall.

4. 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.

How about now?: I think this is now stacking up into the competition of the preseason. Phillips and Allen have played fine in camp, but Piscitelli and Jackson have progressed, I think, faster than the Bucs expected. They're still making mistakes, but they're correcting them quicker than most rookies. I expect all four players to see a lot of playing time on Friday night. I'm most interested to see Piscitelli hit and Jackson cover out of their safety positions, areas where I think they can make the Bucs think twice before starting Phillips and Allen this season.

My pre-camp winners: Phillips and Allen.

Currently: Phillips and Allen are ahead, but Piscitelli and Jackson are gaining.

5. 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.

How about now?: How's this for a depth chart no one expected — Garcia, McCown, Simms and Gradkowski? Crazy. McCown has a big lead on both, thanks to an excellent camp. But that lead can disappear if he has a lousy game Friday night. Remember — he hasn't taken a live snap in nearly two years. Simms won't play, so Gradkowski will get extra playing time in an effort to overtake Simms for the No. 3 spot. Simms is resting his sore elbow this week and is ruled out for the game. The Bucs expect him to be ready for the Jacksonville game.

My pre-camp winner: Simms.

Currently: McCown has the lead.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for 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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