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Breaking down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers position by position

Position by position

Breaking down the Bucs for whenever the lockout ends and the front office, coaches and players get back to work.

QUARTERBACK

Starter: Josh Freeman

Backups: Josh Johnson, Rudy Carpenter

Potential free agent losses: None

Top free agents: Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks), Alex Smith (49ers), Matt Leinart (Texans)

Analysis: Freeman, 23, played like a franchise quarterback in 2010, his first full season as the starter. He went 10-6 while passing for 3,451 yards, completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions (the ninth-best touchdown/interception ratio in league history). The final month of the season, Freeman had nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Also, Freeman already owns seven fourth-quarter comebacks. During the lockout, Freeman organized a three-day minicamp attended by more than 50 players, solidifying his role as the team captain and leader. He's expected to continue to improve as his young receivers gain experience. Johnson (14-of-16 for 111 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in 2010) enters the final year of his contract but is established as Freeman's primary backup. He also is used in wildcat formations and, on occasion, as a receiver. Carpenter, who has never thrown a regular-season pass, is the No. 3. Overall, it's a strong group.

RUNNING BACK

Starters: LeGarrette Blount, Earnest Graham (fullback)

Backups: Cadillac Williams, Kregg Lumpkin, Allen Bradford, Kareem Huggins

Potential free agent losses: Williams

Top free agents: DeAngelo Williams (Panthers), Ahmad Bradshaw (Giants), Cedric Benson (Bengals), Darren Sproles (Chargers), Tiki Barber (unretired)

Analysis: Blount, who started only seven games after being claimed off waivers from Tennessee, led all rookie running backs with 1,007 yards and six touchdowns while gaining 5 yards per carry. At 6 feet, 247 pounds, Blount is extremely powerful and athletic, capable of running over defenders or hurdling them. He needs to become better in short-yardage situations and more adept as a receiver and blocker to become an everydown back. The Bucs love Williams because of his intangibles but might be willing to let him test free agency. The fifth overall pick in 2005 overcame two devastating knee injuries but lost his starting job after nine games because of ineffectiveness (2.5-yard average). At 29, his role might be as a third-down back. The Bucs want to see more of Lumpkin and used a sixth-round pick on Bradford. Huggins is coming off surgery for a torn right ACL. Barber, 36, has not played in four seasons but says the Bucs are on his short list — although the team has not shown signs of being interested.

RECEIVERS

Starters: Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn

Backups: Sammie Stroughter, Micheal Spurlock, Dezmon Briscoe, Preston Parker, Maurice Stovall

Potential free agent losses: Stovall

Top free agents: Vincent Jackson (Chargers), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Sidney Rice (Vikings)

Analysis: Williams, a fourth-round pick out of Syracuse, led all rookies with 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The previous receiver to reach double-digit touchdowns as a rookie was Randy Moss. At 6 feet 1, 212 pounds, Williams established himself as Josh Freeman's primary target with big-play ability to run after the catch. Benn appears ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn left ACL that forced him to miss the final game. He bloomed late but is faster and more physical than Williams as a slot receiver. The player to watch is Briscoe, who was signed off the Bengals' practice squad last season and started the final game (recording his first career touchdown). Stroughter struggled as a starter and might be most effective on third down and in the return game. The Bucs want Freeman to grow with his receivers, but they could add competition with a veteran free agent.

TIGHT END

Starter: Kellen Winslow

Backups: John Gilmore, Luke Stocker, Ryan Purvis, Daniel Hardy, Erik Lorig, Nathan Overbay

Potential free agents losses: Gilmore

Top free agents: Zach Miller (Raiders), Mercedes Lewis (Jaguarsars), Owen Daniels (Texans).

Analysis: Winslow has had six surgeries on his right knee but elected to forgo an elective procedure this offseason for the first time in his career. As a result, he appeared revived at a recent minicamp and has spent the offseason working out with quarterback Josh Freeman. With the arrival of receivers such as Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, Winslow's catches (77 in 2009 to 66 in 2010) and yards (884 to 730) dipped slightly. But he posted five touchdowns for the second straight season and is a matchup nightmare for defenses. Gilmore, 31, is an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to be re-signed. So the Bucs invested two draft picks, Stocker, a 6-foot-6, 253-pounder from Tennessee in the fourth round and Hardy, a 6-foot-4, 242-pounder from Idaho in the seventh round. Lorig, a converted defensive end, also sees time at fullback. Stocker, who was productive as a pass catcher and run blocker for the Vols, will make an immediate impact.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Jeremy Zuttah, C Jeff Faine, RG Davin Joseph, RT James Lee

Backups: T Jeremy Trueblood, C/G Ted Larsen, G/T Derek Hardman, C Marc Dile, T Will Barker, G Brandon Carter, C/G John Malecki, T Demar Dotson

Potential free agent losses: Joseph, Trueblood

Top free agents: T Tyson Clabo (Falcons), T Doug Free (Cowboys).

Analysis: Re-signing Joseph, who started 11 games last season before suffering a broken foot at Baltimore, is the Bucs' top priority in free agency. The 2006 first-round pick is a mauler who would play even better next season in the power, man-to-man blocking scheme under new offensive line coach Pat Morris. Joseph wants to remain in Tampa Bay but also would be swayed to stay if the Bucs re-signed Trueblood, his best friend. But this is no package deal. General manager Mark Dominik has no trouble investing in a line to protect Freeman and proved it last season by signing Penn to a long-term extension. If Faine, who missed eight games with quad/triceps injuries, stays healthy, the Bucs will have good depth with the experienced gained by Zuttah, Larsen and Hardman in 2010. There could be some additions from free agency, depending on who stays and who goes.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Starters: DE Adrian Clayborn, UT Gerald McCoy, NT Roy Miller, DE Da'Quan Bowers

Backups: DT Al Woods, DE Tim Crowder, DE Stylez White, DE Alex Magee, DE/DT Brian Price, DE/DT Kyle Moore

Potential free agent losses: White, Crowder

Top free agents: DE Cullen Jenkins (Packers), DE Mathias Kiwanuka (Giants), DE Ray Edwards (Vikings)

Analysis: The Bucs have invested heavily in their defensive line, starting with McCoy, the third overall pick in 2010. He struggled during the first half of the season before recording his first of three sacks in Week 9. McCoy, 23, missed the final month of the season with a torn bicep but is the de facto leader of the line. Clayborn, the first-round pick from Iowa, and Bowers, the second-round pick from Clemson, will be even further behind than McCoy due to the lockout. Bowers is recovering from knee surgery that caused him to plummet in the draft but has natural pass rush ability and led Division I-A with 16 sacks. Price, who played in only five games before requiring surgery on his pelvis and hamstrings, could start the season on the physically unable to perform list. Don't look for the Bucs to re-sign White or Crowder, preferring to let the kids develop.

LINEBACKER

Starters: Geno Hayes, Barrett Rudd, Quincy Black

Backups: Tyrone McKenzie, Adam Hayward, Mason Foster, Dekoda Watson, J.D. Folsom, Niko Koutouvides, Simoni Lawrence

Potential free agent losses: Ruud, Black, Hayward, Koutouvides

Top free agents: Chad Greenway (Vikings), LaMarr Woodley (Steelers), Dhani Jones (Bengals)

Analysis: The biggest debate raging in Tampa Bay the past few years has been how good is Ruud. Good enough to become only the second player to lead the Bucs in tackles four seasons in a row. But not good enough to earn a contract extension the past two seasons even though they rewarded offensive tackle Donald Penn in roughly the same situation. Ruud will get to make his case on the free agent market, but don't underestimate his value to coach/defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. If Ruud leaves, McKenzie is next in line. Foster, a third-round pick from Washington, also could be groomed at any of the three positions. Black was productive despite missing a month with a broken arm. But he and Hayward will draw interest as free agents. It's a position in flux, and replacements might be needed as the Bucs rebuild their front seven.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Starters: CB Aqib Talib, CB Ronde Barber, SS Sean Jones, FS Cody Grimm

Backups: CB Myron Lewis, CB Elbert Mack, CB Anthony Gaitor, S Vince Anderson, S Ahmad Black, S Corey Lynch, S Dominique Harris, S Larry Asante, CB D.J. Johnson

Potential free agent losses: None

Top free agents: Champ Bailey (Broncos), Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders), Brent Grimes (Falcons), Carlos Rogers (Redskins)

Analysis: Talib faces a suspension for his alleged role in a shooting in Garland, Texas, during the lockout. But his trial on charges of assault with a deth a deadly weapon isn't until March. So it's looking likely the Bucs will cling to his presumption of innocence and leave any punishment up to commissioner Roger Goodell. The Bucs are a much different team with Talib, a rare shutdown corner. Two others premier pass defenders, Bailey and Asomugha, are free agents. But Asomugha is 30 and reportedly seeking $18 million per year. It's more likely they will count on the development of Biggers and Lewis. Barber, 36, has plenty left in his tank, and Grimm was playing like a Pro Bowl safety when he suffered a season-ending broken left leg. But the success of this unit depends on Talib, who had six interceptions despite missing as month with a hip injury.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Starters: K Connor Barth, P Robert Malone, LS Andrew Economos, PR Micheal Spurlock, KOR Micheal Spurlock

Backups: PR Sammie Stroughter, KOR Preston Parker, KOR Kareem Huggins.

Potential free agent losses: Barth, Spurlock

Top free agents: K Adam Vinatieri (Colts), K David Akers (Eagles), K Ryan Longwell (Vikings), P Adam Podlesh (Jaguars)

Analysis: Barth has been a great find and stands to receive a good contract as a restricted free agent. In 2010, Barth made 23 of 28 field goals (82 percent) and was perfect on 36 extra points. Malone settled the shaky punting situation by averaging 41.5 yards with 17 inside the 20. Spurlock has a penchant for producing a big return in key moments, but he faces competition from Stroughter, Parker and others. The Bucs likely will need to find a new long snapper after Economos tore his Achilles' tendon in the offseason. A bigger concern might be the loss of special teams coach Richard Bissaccia, who took a similar job with San Diego.

Rick Stroud, Times staff writer

Address: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa | Website: Buccaneers.com | Tickets: (813) 879-2827

2011 schedule

Preseason

Aug. 12

at Chiefs, 8, Ch. 13

Aug. 18

vs. Patriots, 7:30, TBA

Aug. 27

vs. Dolphins, 7:30, TBA

Sept. 1

at Redskins, 7:30, TBA

Regular season

Sept. 11

vs. Lions, 1, Ch. 13

Sept. 18

at Vikings, 1, Ch. 13

Sept. 25

vs. Falcons, 4:15, Ch. 13

Oct. 3

vs. Colts, 8:30, ESPN

Oct. 9

at 49ers, 4, Ch. 13

Oct. 16

vs. Saints, 4:15, Ch. 13

Oct. 23

vs. Bears, London, 1, Ch. 13

Week 8

Bye

Nov. 6

at Saints, 1, Ch. 13

Nov. 13

vs. Texans, 1, Ch. 10

Nov. 20

at Packers, 1, Ch. 13

Nov. 27

at Titans, 1, Ch. 13

Dec. 4

vs. Panthers, 1, Ch. 13

Dec. 11

at Jaguars, 1, Ch. 13

Dec. 17

vs. Cowboys, 8:20, NFL

Dec. 24

at Panthers, 1, Ch. 13

Jan. 1

at Falcons, 1, Ch. 13

Note: Home games (preseason and regular season) subject to TV blackout

Depth chart

The Bucs won't release a depth chart until just before their preseason opener. But here's Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder's guess (DT Brian Price and LS Andrew Economos excluded because of injuries):

Offense

Position Starter Backup

WR Mike Williams Dezmon Briscoe

LT Donald Penn Will Barker

LG Ted Larsen Brandon Carter

C Jeff Faine Jeremy Zuttah

RG Jeremy Zuttah Derek Hardman

RT James Lee * Demar Dotson

TE Kellen Winslow Luke Stocker

WR Arrelious BennSammie Stroughter

QB Josh Freeman Josh Johnson

RB LeGarrette Blount Kregg Lumpkin

FB Earnest Graham Erik Lorig

Defense

Position Starter Backup

LDE Michael Bennett Da'Quan Bowers

DT Roy Miller Al Woods

DT Gerald McCoy Frank Okam *

RDE Adrian Clayborn Alex Magee

SLB Dekoda Watson Mason Foster

MLB Tyrone McKenzie Mason Foster

WLB Geno Hayes Mason Foster

LCB Aqib Talib E.J. Biggers

SS Sean Jones Larry Asante

FS Cody Grimm Corey Lynch *

RCB Ronde Barber Myron Lewis

Special Teams

P Robert Malone | K Connor Barth * | PR Preston Parker/Stroughter | KR Parker/Stroughter

Unrestricted free agents

LB Quincy Black

DE Tim Crowder

TE John Gilmore

LB Adam Hayward

G Davin Joseph

LB Niko Koutouvides

LB Barrett Ruud

WR Maurice Stovall

T Jeremy Trueblood

DE Stylez White

RB Cadillac Williams

Restricted free agents

K Connor Barth

T James Lee

S Corey Lynch

CB Elbert Mack

DT Frank Okam

WR Micheal Spurlock

2011 draft picks (round)

DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa (1)

DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson (2)

LB Mason Foster, Washington (3)

TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee (4)

S Ahmad Black, Florida (5)

RB Allen Bradford, Southern Cal (6)

CB Anthony Gaitor, Florida International (7)

TE Daniel Hardy, Idaho (7)



* Restricted free agent

Breaking down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers position by position 07/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:42pm]

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