Buccaneers Rookie Gradebook

Bucsblitz.com offers its analysis and review of the 2007 season with our analysis of the rookies selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including player grades and an outlook to 2008. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com

GAINES ADAMS (4th overall, first round)

STATISTICS: 55 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defended.

Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams celebrates a sack earlier this season. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
ANALYSIS: For the first eight games, Adams looked overmatched. At midseason I wrote that I wasn't disappointed by Adams' progress because he, like most rookie ends, had to adjust to the pro game. By the end of the season, he had. Adams stopped relying on his pure speed and learned how to use his hands and his leverage to create pass rushing opportunities. He began using more inside moves and gave the Bucs an early sack of New York's Eli Manning in the NFC Wild Card playoff game. He finished with six sacks, which is the average production for a defensive end selected in the Top 10 of the last 16 NFL Drafts. He also became a player that thrived on playing time. The more he got during a game, the better he became. And he proved he can be effective on both sides of the defense, as he usually moved to the left side on third downs to make room for Greg White. GRADE: B-

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll need to add some more pass rush moves and get stronger in the upper body, but the base is there for double-digit sacks in 2008.

ARRON SEARS (35th overall, second round)

STATISTICS: He started 16 games at left guard and helped Earnest Graham nearly rush for 1,000 yards.

ANALYSIS: Sears won the job in preseason and proved to be a quick study. He made what I would consider some rookie mistakes early in the season — blowing blocking assignments and such. But by the latter stages of the season the Bucs were using him as a pulling guard in key running situations as his interior pass protection improved. It's easy to see why the Bucs drafted him, despite having Dan Buenning — he's a physical, road-grader type of offensive lineman who can play with injury and hold his own with most defensive tackles. GRADE: B

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Technique is where he'll need to make the most improvement, especially in pass protection. But he has all the makings of a Pro Bowl guard one day.

SABBY PISCITELLI (64th overall, second round)

STATISTICS: He made 2 special teams tackles before going on injured reserve on Sept. 24

ANALYSIS: The Buccaneers were hoping to get more out of Piscitelli, whom they drafted for his physical play and big-play ability in coverage. The injury pretty much wiped away any progress for Piscitelli in 2007. He showed flashes of ability in preseason, but that's preseason. GRADE: Incomplete.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: The Bucs almost have to treat Piscitelli as a rookie in 2008. Fortunately, the play of both Jermaine Phillips and Tanard Jackson will allow Piscitelli a low-pressure environment in which to make progress toward being the third safety.

QUINCY BLACK (68th overall, third round)

STATISTICS: He made 9 tackles in the final two games of the season in place of Derrick Brooks. He was third in special teams tackles with 17, along with 1 forced fumble.

ANALYSIS: The Bucs drafted Black because of his cat-like quickness and that really came in handy on special teams, where he made almost as many big plays at Maurice Stovall. Black proved to be a good tackler in the six quarters of football he played at the end of the season. I thought, judging him against fellow rookie Adam Hayward, that he made a bit more progress sitting on the bench. But he's still a long way from being ready to start. GRADE: B-

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll need to stand out more on special teams and show progress on the practice field in picking up the Bucs' defensive scheme. Even if he has a good training camp in 2008, he's due for another year on special teams.

TANARD JACKSON (106th overall, fourth round)

STATISTICS: 78 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 12 passes defended.

Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson started as a rookie from the opening game and played at a high level all season. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
ANALYSIS: Jackson overtook Will Allen by the third preseason game to win the starting free safety job. Jackson started all 16 games and from the beginning proved to be a steady player. There didn't seem to be a big learning curve for the converted cornerback. He played coverage well, he played the run well and didn't allow much to get behind him. He made one big mistake in New Orleans, but it also appeared he lost that long touchdown pass in the lights of the Superdome. In any other stadium, Jackson would have made that play. The Bucs scouting staff deserved a bonus for determining that Jackson had the skills to play safety. And his coverage skills came in handy as his first NFL interception came against Indianapolis' Peyton Manning. Not bad. The Bucs haven't had a safety like him in some time and he should be a fixture for the next several years. GRADE: B+

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Beware the sophomore slump, Tanard. It's swallowed up much better players than he. So long as he improves, he has Pro Bowl potential in the next few years.

GREG PETERSON (141st overall, fifth round)

STATISTICS: He made 19 tackles, 1 ½ sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery and defended 1 pass. Finished the postseason on injured reserve.

ANALYSIS: I didn't expect much from Peterson, since he was making the transition from Division II football to the NFL. But he actually made more progress than I thought he would. He was never forced to the practice squad and early in the season showed flashes of talent, specifically playing in a pass-rush package in Chris Hovan's position. But by the end of the season Peterson was playing mostly special teams. His biggest mistake this season was allowing the punt block in Detroit. GRADE: C-

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll need to show that he can be a bigger contributor in 2008. Specifically, he'll need to improve against the run. He's used mostly on passing downs right now because his lanky body lends itself to it.

ADAM HAYWARD (182nd overall, sixth round)

STATISTICS: He made six tackles on defense. He made 11 tackles on special teams.

ANALYSIS: He made a glaring error in coverage against San Francisco that led to a touchdown. But he's a rookie, so you have to cut him some slack. He barely played on defense, but made enough positive plays in the season's final six quarters to lead most to believe he can be a bigger contributor on defense. He seemed to play better against the run than against the pass in his limited play. GRADE: C-

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He's probably on his way to another year of special teams, but training camp and preseason is important for him to prove to the brass that he's making serious progress.

CHRIS DENMAN (214th overall, seventh round)

STATISTICS: Spent the entire season on injured reserve.

ANALYSIS: Denman is a big body (6-foot-7, 315 pound) from Fresno State, a program Jon Gruden likes for their offensive linemen. But he did nothing this season. GRADE: Incomplete.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: He'll have a lot to prove as he competes with not only the seven or eight linemen already under contract but a new rookie and free-agent class.

MARCUS HAMILTON (245th overall, seventh round)

STATISTICS: Did not play in the regular season. Spent the year bouncing off and on the practice squad.

ANALYSIS: He didn't make the roster, but the Bucs liked him enough to keep him around on the practice squad. They like the fact that he came from a program that used the Cover 2 as their base defense. GRADE: Incomplete.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: There's room again at cornerback, as the Bucs must start their search for Ronde Barber's and Brian Kelly's successors. It'll be a make-or-break year for Hamilton.

KENNETH DARBY (246th overall, seventh round)

STATISTICS: Rushed 2 times for 9 yards. Caught 2 passes for 16 yards. Played in one game and spent part of the season on the practice squad.

ANALYSIS: Hard to believe at one time some fans wanted the Bucs to release Earnest Graham for Darby. The former Alabama back did a lot of bouncing around between the active roster and the practice squad, so it's hard to see what progress he might have made. GRADE: Incomplete.

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: With Michael Bennett and Michael Pittman on their way to becoming free agents, there is room for Darby to prove himself this offseason.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.

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