Big offseason for Bucs' quasi-rookies
The Bucs possess 10 picks in next month's NFL draft, meaning they'll have plenty of new faces to implement this offseason.
But it's also an important offseason for three players who were rookies last season but missed some or all of the year with injuries.
Cornerback E.J. Biggers and offensive tackle Xavier Fulton missed all of 2009 after going on injured reserve at the conclusion of the preseason. Also, defensive end Kyle Moore got his career off to a very slow start after injuries kept him on the sideline for the first seven games of the season and limited his playing time in his first few appearances.
So, in essence, 2010 is practically the rookie season for these players, each of whom will have the opportunity to compete for important roles. They'll have that chance, in part, because each plays a position at which the Bucs can use some help.
Biggers will get a chance to work his way into the mix in the secondary. Though the team has added a safety in free agent Sean Jones, they haven't yet addressed cornerback. Starting right corner Ronde Barber turns 35 next month and the nickel back job, held last season by Elbert Mack, could be opened up for competition. Biggers is a prospect to watch as he was in the midst of an impressive training camp last season before succumbing to his injury.
The offensive line has its starting unit returning intact (provided restricted free agents Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood are retained, as expected), but depth is a serious issue. That's where Fulton comes into play. This big, athletic tackle could play a pivotal role in the event of an injury to a starter.
Moore got a shot to play last season, but he missed so much critical practice time early in the season that it was difficult to integrate once he returned. It's no secret the pass rush has been lacking Tampa Bay for a long time, so the Bucs will give a fair shake to anyone they believe can get heat on the quarterback while also being stout against the run. And keep in mind that last season's starter, Jimmy Wilkerson, is a free agent and may or may not be re-signed.
It's impossible to know what kind of impact these players are going to have, but with the Bucs in dire need of an injection of talent, the hope is that some of that infusion comes from these guys.