B.J. ASKEW (Starter)
STATISTICS: 18 receptions for 175 yards, a 9.7-yard average. Started nine games at fullback.
ANALYSIS: Askew came to Tampa Bay because he liked the way the Bucs used veteran Mike Alstott — as a rusher, pass receiver and blocker. He felt his rushing skills, which were used prominently for a time at the University of Michigan, were being wasted with the New York Jets, where he spent his first four years. When Alstott went on injured reserve, the Bucs didn't quite trust him yet, so they made Michael Pitman their opening-day fullback. That quickly changed when they determined that Askew was a better lead blocker. The former Wolverine quickly worked his way into a steady role in the offense. His 18 receptions were a career high and he was missed when injuries forced him to be inactive for the final three games of the season. He'd rather carry the ball, but he's an above-average lead blocker who helped clear the way for Earnest Graham most of the season.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: Askew will count $625,000 toward the salary cap in 2008. That is the final year of his two-year deal with the team. With Alstott now retired, Askew is the undisputed starter and the Bucs should consider locking him into a longer deal to solidify the position.
BYRON STORER (Backup)
STATISTICS: Started three games at fullback for an injured B.J. Askew. He caught 2 passes for 3 yards. He also made nine special teams tackles.
ANALYSIS: The former California standout took advantage of his chance in December when he filled in for Askew. He handled the offense was well as a rookie pressed into service could, and head coach Jon Gruden complimented his first start against Atlanta on Dec. 16. He appeared to handle the blocking part of the offense best. He appeared to be an adequate receiver in his limited exposure to the starting lineup.
OUTLOOK FOR 2008: According to NFLPA.org, Storer is due $370,000 in 2008. But his release before training camp, and subsequent signing to the practice squad, likely nullified that original deal. But given his experience and knowledge of the offense, plus the retirement of Mike Alstott, he now has the inside track at the backup job in 2008.
MIKE ALSTOTT (starter, finished on IR)
STATISTICS: Did not play.
ANALYSIS: Alstott retired last week, ending his 12-year career.
Don't miss the other articles in this series:
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.