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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Receiver a position to watch during Buccaneers' offseason

We know the Buccaneers made wide receiver a priority this offseason given their decisions to designate Antonio Bryant their franchise player and to re-sign Michael Clayton to a long-term contract.

But what we haven't focused on is the steep dropoff at the position after what likely will be the Nos. 1 and 2 receivers.

Here's where things get cloudy. Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard are long gone, released in the team's purge of veterans in late February. Meanwhile, Maurice Stovall, who is yet to catch more than 10 passes in a season, is coming off an injury -- again. Brian Clark, a special-teams star, returns. There's also seventh-round pick and potential draft gem Sammie Stroughter, who will have more than ample opportunity to break into the rotation. Little-known Cortez Hankton is still hanging around after going on injured reserve with a knee injury in the '08 preseason.

Beyond that, we're talking about a handful of so-called street free agents. Among them is former Georgia Tech standout Kelly Campbell and former USF star Amarri Jackson.

Oh, and I almost forgot: 2008 second-rounder Dexter Jackson's still on the roster, though he will have to make one amazing leap to escape his status as perhaps the worst draft pick of the Jon Gruden era.

The point is this: The receiver position is not at all deep, meaning the Bucs are going to have to get some unexpected production from some players who don't have a history of producing it at this level. Stovall remains an enigma, so perhaps we should reserve judgment. Clark is an interesting prospect, and maybe there's something to build on there. Same with Stroughter and Hankton. But each is a relative unknown to some extent.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski seems like the type who will, at least occasionally, try to stretch the field. That's the impression his players have gotten for sure. It's also something we saw a great deal of during the team's first mini-camp last month. So, it's likely a third receiver will loom large in this offense. Yes, the tight ends will catch A LOT of passes, too, especially with Kellen Winslow on board. My guess is they'll have to take up much of the slack for this very inexperienced receiving corps. But third-and-long situations often call for three-receiver sets, and someone has to be prepared to fill a role similar to that of Hilliard, a third-down specialist.

Who will it be? I have no idea. The Bucs have four months to figure it out.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:32pm]


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