Behind Enemy Lines -- Tampa Bay

BucsBlitz.com beat writer Matthew Postins addressed six burning questions posed to him by Patriots Insider about Friday's game. Postins shares his insights into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this edition of "Behind Enemy Lines."

1. What is the situation with the Buccaneer's quarterbacks? Is Jeff Garcia the starter or have things changed?

Garcia is the unquestioned starter. He's shown great command of the offense in training camp and I don't think there's any doubt he'll be the starter come opening day - barring injury. The big competition is at No. 2, where Luke McCown has the lead over Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski, which is a surprise considering he wasn't on anyone's radar before training camp.

2. How will the Buccaneer's offensive line deal with the pressure three former first round draft picks on the Patriots' defensive line can bring?

Good question. I think the right side may be better than the left right now. G Davin Joseph and T Jeremy Trueblood have a season's worth of starts together and have had a great camp so far. They've lost few physical battles in training camp. The left side is another story. As good as LG Arron Sears has looked in camp, he's still a rookie. And now LT Luke Petitgout is out with a sore back. I'm not sure if Donald Penn or Anthony Davis will start for Petitgout, but one thing's for sure - the Pats will do all they can to exploit Sears' youth.

3. Is Cato June the same player the Bucs expected to get then they signed the former Colt? What are the expectations for him in Tampa?

He's as advertised - quick, pursues well and doesn't make mistakes. We were all a bit surprised to learn that in Indianapolis the position he played is the same position he'll play in Tampa Bay - the strong side (apparently the weak side is the strong side in Indy). That's made his transition that much smoother. He's had a great camp and hasn't been challenged by anyone for a starting job.

4. Is Chris Simms all done as a starter in Tampa Bay? Should he be?

I don't think he should be done, but the odds are against him right now. That sore elbow kept him out of meaningful drills for a week, and I think the fact that he's third on the depth chart is a gift to Simms for everything he's been through the past year. Simms won't play Friday, and I think Gradkowski can pass him with a good game as the No. 3 quarterback on Friday. Unless Simms can show that he can resemble the quarterback he was two years ago, he's either headed for the IR or a release.

5. How much gas in the tank do long time Bucs Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks and Rhonde Barber still have left? Does the team have a plan for when they eventually depart?

Well, Alstott is out for the season with a neck injury, and I expect him to retire at some point. I think his playing days are now done. As for Brooks and Barber, I believe Brooks will play out the length of his contract, which expires after the 2009 season - or at least he'll want to. I'm not sure the Bucs will keep him past 2008. That depends on the development of the young players behind him. The Bucs haven't been kind to aging players lately, and you would think Brooks would be immune. Barber has four years left on his contract and I think he's still sharp enough to play out the deal. Of the three, Barber has lost the least.

6. Most interesting matchup of the game? (Offense/Defense/ST)?

The Bucs defensive line vs. the Pats' offensive line (first team). The Pats do a great job of assembling a solid line each year. The Bucs have made several moves to bolster their pass rush. This is their first chance to see if those moves have worked.

Prediction: Pats win, 27-17.

Curiosity question: what is the current situation with Jake Plummer?

Jake is in Idaho somewhere munching on berries. Meanwhile, the Bucs and Broncos have filed a grievance to get some of Plummer's signing bonus back. It won't be a distraction, just another mess because Plummer won't "officially" retire.

 

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