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Bucs receivers leave room for improvement

MIAMI — It was hoped this would be the night the Bucs could finally make some sense of their hodgepodge group of receivers. With any luck, some order finally would be established.

But there wasn't much that happened to show outright improvement at the position in Tampa Bay's victory against Miami.

There was good news, such as newcomer Antonio Bryant's three catches in traffic. And there was old news, with Michael Clayton dropping Luke McCown's most precise attempt of the evening, a potential long gain in the second quarter.

The Bucs might need every ounce of preseason to get a good read on the contents of their receiving corps.

"There's a lot more to shake out still," Clayton said.

Of Tampa Bay's 28 pass completions, 13 went to running backs or tight ends, leaving relatively few to split among a host of receivers.

Bryant certainly gave coaches reason to feel good about his promise, especially considering this was his first game action since December 2006 after spending 2007 unsigned.

"The hard part is timing and consistency," said Bryant, who had three catches for 20 yards. "Guys have to know you. You don't run your routes exactly like you do on paper.

"But I think it felt good to get a live look again."

Clayton finished with two receptions for 22 yards, one of them a gutsy 13-yard slant. But his drop would be the night's lasting image.

"I have to stop being greedy, looking for the big play," he said. "It's preseason. Hopefully I'll get them all out now."

Of course, the lineup of receivers the Bucs used Saturday night wasn't the one they'll likely show on opening day.

Joey Galloway didn't make the trip because of his groin injury, and Ike Hilliard played sparingly and didn't catch a pass. Maurice Stovall started in place of Galloway, and Chad Lucas (three catches, 21 yards) got a chance to show some of what he displayed late in 2007.

Dexter Jackson got in on the act, as the second-round pick added to his return duties with a quick screen pass from Chris Simms that he turned into an 11-yard gain.

And Tampa native Brian Clark (Chamberlain High) caught the game's first touchdown, a 3-yard strike from Brian Griese to close the first half.

Nothing has been decided, and this battle will continue to be waged throughout the preseason.

"They've brought in a lot of receivers here," Clark said. "In (the offseason), we had, like, 14 guys. Then we narrowed it down to 12.

"There's no telling how many we'll take in the regular season, so you have to put your best foot forward and say, 'This is why I should be here.' ”

Bucs receivers leave room for improvement 08/10/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 3:34pm]
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