Woof69: Does Michael Bennett step up and provide the effective game breaking running back we need? He hardly touched the ball after arriving last year. Hard to believe he didn't carry the ball because he didn't fully know the playbook. Easy enough to send him in with a play and tell him he's getting the hand off in the two gap.
Matthew Postins: You could be underestimating the complexity of Jon Gruden's playbook, but I get your point and I agree. The Buccaneers made noise about giving Bennett a package of plays to work with so he could be effective in the offense, and I think they actually did that. But Bennett was, in my opinion, underused. The reason? Gruden did not have a trust level with Bennett that he had with, say Earnest Graham, who had been with the Bucs for four years and knew the system. That trust level is a big reason why some players will see a lot of action one week and none the next in Tampa Bay. Gruden has little patience in that regard. Now, as for this season, I see Warrick Dunn stealing some of Bennett's thunder now that he is signed, because they're essentially the same back — short, shifty and speedy, but with a dash of power. Dunn is probably a better receiver out of the backfield, too. I could see Bennett getting 7-10 touches per game, mostly handoffs on plays that get him outside so he can use that speed. But I could also see him getting completely lost in the offense because Gruden likes to use his new toys. And Dunn is his newest toy, not Bennett.
Woof69: Will Quincy Black be the linebacker we need for the future?
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Quincy Black could be the heir to Derrick Brooks' weak side linebacker position. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)|
Woof69: Will Sabby Piscitelli bounce back from his injury and be ready to start?
Matthew Postins: He'll be ready. In fact, when I talked to Sabby after the playoff loss he was physically ready to go. Now, will he start? That's another story. Piscitelli, to me, projects as the Bucs' potential strong side starter at safety, but there's one thing standing in his way — Jermaine Phillips. Phillips had a great year last year (after a sub-standard one in 2006), but he has just one year remaining on his contract. The Bucs have made noise about extending several of their 2009 free agents, and it's assumed that Phillips will be one of them. If the Bucs don't extend his contract, then I think that could be an indication that the Bucs believe Piscitelli could be their starter in 2009. What makes it hard to evaluate Piscitelli is the injury. He'll basically be a rookie again in 2008 and he'll have to prove himself all over again. What I like about him is what the coaches like about him — he has a nose for the football and isn't afraid to hit. I think Phillips holds him off in 2008, but Piscitelli could see plenty of playing time in nickel and dime formations, given the Bucs' lack of depth at cornerback right now.
Woof69: Can Parris Warren recover and be as good as he looked in the preseason?
Matthew Postins: Expect that to be one of the big storylines of 2008. Warren's injury really did a number on the Buccaneers' passing game, I thought. Warren probably would have been given a shot to be the No. 3 receiver in the early weeks of the season and he might have taken control of the job from Michael Clayton. Now he has to prove himself all over again. If Warren can come back and regain his preseason form, that could give them another solid option after Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. In fact, given the Bucs' inactivity at wide receiver in free agency, it appears they're banking on that. I talked to Warren in January and he said the injury was healed. He's ready to go. Now we have to see if he can reclaim the ability he flashed last season. We'll start to get an idea next month when organized team activities begin. But I'll make a prediction and say that Warren will be a part of the passing game in 2008, barring injury.
Woof69: Which wide receivers get the axe if we bring in more free agents?
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Michael Clayton could be cut if he isn't able to beat out a crowded field at wide receiver. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)|
But the real answer to your question? Right now, I believe the wide receivers of note that are most likely to be cut after the preseason are Clayton and Bryant.
Woof69: How long can our older stars like Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Ronde Barber and, to a lesser degree, Ike Hilliard, continue to excel?
Matthew Postins: Age will be a big factor for all of these players soon. Brooks, 34, as I outlined earlier, has two years left on his contract but doesn't appear to be slowing down. Same goes for Galloway, 35. I would expect both to fulfill the life of their contract. After that their returns boils down to how well they're playing, their desire to keep playing and if the Bucs have players waiting to take their places. Right now they don't. Barber is signed through 2010 and I could see him playing beyond that contract for another year. Hilliard will continue to be a reliable receiver for the next few years. He's incredibly crafty and runs precise, reliable routes that any quarterback will love. His game, unlike Galloway's, isn't built on speed and his body doesn't have to be 100 percent for him to get the most out of it (or did you miss last season?). Oddly, I think Hilliard will outlast them all and play for the next five years or so. As far as excelling, I believe all four players will perform at a high level in 2008. The most potential for a drop-off lies with Galloway, who's body could betray him at any minute, no matter how many precautions Gruden takes.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Luke McCown would appear to be out of chances with the acquisition of Brian Griese. (Bill Haber/AP Photo)|
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.