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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Battles to look forward to in Bucs camp



When it comes to notable offseason personnel moves, the Bucs were mostly silent during the spring and summer.

Still, as we approach training camp, Tampa Bay still has a fair amount of competition for jobs. There are at least six starting spots that, near as we can tell, are either wide open or where the incumbent will likely have to fight off a challenge from others.

Let's take a look:

Left guard: As we've told you on this blog, the acquisition of Keydrick Vincent makes the left guard position instantly competitive. As it was, Jeremy Zuttah was not facing much of a challenge from anyone else on the roster. And overall, the depth on the offensive line remains thin. But Vincent's addition to the roster is a boost in terms of both depth and competition. 

Zuttah has a huge edge here; he started all last season and has had the benefit of working with the club all through the offseason. But Vincent is a veteran who will presumably will be a quick study and make the preseason interesting at this position. The club sold him on the idea that he would be competing for a starting job, and we're inclined to believe that.

Left defensive end: We've heard quite a bit about Kyle Moore this offseason, and the compliments have come from the top. Coach Raheem Morris continues to rave about how Moore has remade his body by losing weight since the end of last season and positioning himself to take over the starting job at left defensive end.

But it's hard to make a case that Moore did anything last season to earn the job on a permanent basis. He missed half the season with injuries and didn't distinguish himself once he finally got in the lineup. That wasn't totally unexpected under the circumstances. He was playing off the bench behind starter Jimmy Wilkerson, who has since signed with the Saints. Still, we're expecting to see a lot of Moore this season, especially because coaches think he has some versatility. He has the ability to move inside in certain situations, like on passing downs, and become a rushing defensive tackle.

But it's my opinion that Tim Crowder and Michael Bennett shouldn't be ignored here. That's not to say they are more deserving of a starting job. But both showed brief flashes last season that indicate they have a chance to, at the very least, crack the rotation. Crowder, in particular, seems to have some upside. His 3.5 sacks and 43 tackles last season in limited action are nothing to sneeze at. Bennett is still quite young and will have a chance to show some of his potential in training camp. At that point, we'll see what he does with his opportunities.

Strong safety: You've heard plenty about this position throughout the offseason, where Sabby Piscitelli and Sean Jones will be fighting it out. I happen to think Jones will come out on top by a sizable margin, but the team says the job is wide open.

Piscitelli has a lot to prove if he is to overcome this challenge. He has to prove that he has gotten past his tendency to make improper decisions and cannot continue to show a lack of instincts. Jones probably would have to be surprisingly disappointing to lose out here. In any case, this one isn't completely settled and bears some watching when camp opens.

Receiver: Neither of the two starting receiver spots are determined, and this is the unit that will provide the most intrigue during training camp. Because many of the candidates here are so green -- Sammie Stroughter, rookies Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn -- there is going to be a lot to learn about these players. And that's why this position will be so closely watched.

There is going to be a lot of detailed coverage of the daily ups and downs of these players because it will be watched so intensely.

Defensive tackle: We can end the suspense right now: Gerald McCoy is going to be in the starting lineup at the under tackle spot. It's safe to assume that the third overall pick is going to start when the club releases its most experienced defensive tackle (Chris Hovan) right after the draft.

The unknown here is more about what happens between Brian Price and Roy Miller. It technically doesn't matter all that much who starts, because both are going to play a lot of snaps next to McCoy. But it's worth watching to see whether either of them shows more production than the other, perhaps making a case to play more than the other.

For that reason, I think we'll see the best of these two once camp gets started. We're particularly curious about Price, who missed most of the offseason with school obligations and a hamstring injury.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:28pm]


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