Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs hoping for luck out of receiving crew

TAMPA — They are men of faith, these Buccaneers.

Faith in medicine, in rehabilitation, in youth. Faith in magic, in theories, in mystery. Faith in the idea that a receiving corps with one gimpy star and a lot of uncertainty can somehow become a thing of beauty.

So when you see Michael Clayton twisting his body to grab a pass thrown behind him Saturday night, do you also have faith it is possible? When you see Maurice Stovall eluding tacklers after a short pass, does your confidence grow? When you see Ike Hilliard keeping another drive alive on third down, do you become a believer?

Or are you waiting for it all to fall apart?

Because, honestly folks, it could go either way.

The Bucs have some talent at receiver, no doubt about that. Three players on the roster have had 1,000-yard seasons as receivers. A fourth once had a 996-yard season.

That seems like a deep lineup of proven veterans that would be the envy of most teams. Except there's a, um, catch to these receivers. Most of their big seasons are so far gone, you can't even see them in the rearview mirror.

And that is where faith becomes a necessity.

The Bucs have faith Joey Galloway can still be a big-game performer, even though the last time we saw him in a game, he was walking away with a bum shoulder. And now a groin injury has kept him from showing up in 2008.

The Bucs have faith Clayton's three-year journey to nowhere is finally complete. They have faith their medical team can keep Hilliard clicking in his 12th NFL season. They have faith Antonio Bryant can keep his temper in check and revive his career after being traded, released and suspended in his first six NFL seasons.

"You're saying they're not sure bets, but these are guys who have stepped up and made plays whenever they've had the opportunity," receivers coach Richard Mann said. "And you saw them do that tonight."

Yes, but this was supposed to be the area the Bucs were going to address in the offseason. They had a Pro Bowl quarterback, an emerging offensive line and a handful of running backs, but it certainly appeared as if they did not have enough threats capable of running downfield.

And there were a handful of free-agent receivers to be had. Bernard Berrian, Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss signed big-money deals. Bryant Johnson, D.J. Hackett and Devery Henderson were signed for a lot less.

So where did that leave the Bucs?

With a heck of a lot of question marks.

Maybe it was smart business to avoid fat contracts for free agents who weren't sure bets. And maybe Bryant will turn out to be the steal of the offseason.

But as of today, a little less than two weeks before the season opener, it is difficult to have a lot of confidence that this team can stretch the field.

The Bucs have had one completion of more than 20 yards to a wideout in three preseason games. You could point out Galloway has missed all three games and Bryant sat out Saturday with a tender knee, but isn't that part of the concern?

Look, Galloway has been amazing the past three seasons. He may be the most consistent deep threat this franchise has known. But Galloway will turn 37 this season, and it is rare to find a No. 1 receiver at that age.

Of course, the Bucs can make do with a shorter passing game. They can use Warrick Dunn coming out of the backfield or lining up as a flanker, and they have Alex Smith getting better and better at tight end.

But it's a tricky business trying to negotiate the length of a football field without the fear of a vertical passing game.

"I think it says a lot that they haven't gone out and drafted a receiver in the first round," Clayton said. "They know exactly what they have here, and they have faith in us. We have big guys who can block downfield, we have guys who can catch the ball over the middle, we've got savvy veterans like Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard.

"I feel confident this group can get the job done when the opportunity presents itself."

Essentially, the Bucs need two of these gambles to pay off. They need Galloway to continue defying age, or they need Clayton to prove a three-year slump is behind him. They need Bryant to show 32 teams screwed up by not signing him in 2007, or they need Stovall to become a factor after two years of sitting on the bench.

The Bucs need something special out of their receivers in 2008.

And, today, that requires quite a bit of faith.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

Bucs hoping for luck out of receiving crew 08/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 4:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tiki Barber will join his brother, Ronde, on Fox broadcast for Bucs-Giants

    Bucs

    FOX announced Monday night that former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber will have a familiar face joining him as a guest analyst for the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants game in Tampa: his twin brother Tiki, who will join …

    Tiki Barber, right, will join his brother, Ronde, left, as a guest analyst on the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants broadcast on FOX. [Times files (2006)]
  2. Cannons will fire again when Bucs return to Raymond James Stadium

    Bucs

    As good as the Bucs looked in their season-opening 29-7 win against the Bears on Sunday, fans couldn't help but notice that the success didn't sound the same at Raymond James Stadium.

     Ron Gutschmidt is perched on top of the Buccaneer pirate ship ready to activate the ship's cannons with the press of a button after a Buccaneer touchdown. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  3. Rick and Tom podcast: How should Joe Maddon be remembered tonight?

    The Heater

    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones talk about Joe Maddon's return to Tropicana Field for the first time since he left the Rays in 2014 in the latest edition of our Rick and Tom podcast. They discuss the mixed emotions …

    Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field tonight for the first time since he left the Rays in 2014. [Getty Images]
  4. Cubs bring some other ex-Rays to Trop such as Wade Davis, Ben Zobrist

    Blogs

    Joe Maddon's first trip back to the Trop is getting most of the headlines tonight, but there are several other familiar faces among the eight former Rays now wearing Cubs uniforms.

    Two-time Rays MVP Ben Zobrist is finishing strong after a slow start to his second season in Chicago.
  5. Oleg Sosunov brings intrigue to Lightning exhibition opener

    Blogs

    When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked he thought the 6-foot-8 Russian would hit the ceiling of Amalie Arena.

    Oleg Sosunov's ability to skate for his size, his reach, and his style have drawn comparisons to Zdeno Chara.