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Bucs' top picks get chance to make impact

TAMPA — You never know what your draft is going to yield, but the Bucs apparently believe at least some of their 2008 class will make an immediate impact.

Consider the opportunities being given to first-rounder Aqib Talib and second-round choice Dexter Jackson.

Talib is taking his share of snaps with the first-team defense and will be given every chance to start at left cornerback. Jackson, meanwhile, looks to be the early choice to handle punt returns and might get a crack at kickoffs, too.

Consider the effusive praise coach Jon Gruden heaped on Talib on Friday: "He's going to be the face of this franchise."

While last season's top pick, emerging star Gaines Adams, was broken in slowly and was the subject of coaches' criticism in training camp, the Bucs already seem convinced Talib is the real deal.

He'll be battling Phillip Buchanon and Eugene Wilson at cornerback, where the Bucs should be as deep as they've ever been.

Talib won't earn the right to be called the face of the franchise by just "contributing in any way I can," as he humbly said. He will have to make game-changing plays, something the ball-hawking youngster is doing in practices against players with years of experience.

Jackson has just as much chance of splashing onto the scene.

"I know this is a team that has been dying for some return help and for a guy — not necessarily like me, but someone who has some of the traits that I have to make plays," he said. "I feel like if I do that, I can easily make a name for myself."

The sentiment around One Buc Place is Jackson has a chance to be electrifying in the open field, and that could do wonders for field position. And don't dismiss Jackson as a receiver, either. The Bucs are giving him plenty of reps in workouts and, thus far, he hasn't disappointed.

CADDY GETTING CLOSE: You can't spend a day at One Buc Place lately without getting a glimpse of running back Cadillac Williams pushing himself through another workout as he attempts to come back from a devastating knee injury.

As training camp nears, the idea of his 2008 return is gaining momentum.

"What he's done is nothing short of miraculous," Gruden said. "He has worked his tail off. He's got a chance to be ready to play football again this season. The amount of work he's put forth has really excited our players, and he's really done a great job."

General manager Bruce Allen said that Williams has even proposed the idea of participating in this week's three-day minicamp, but there's no chance of that happening.

"We're going to have to harness him a little bit," Allen said. "Put a governor on the Cadillac."

PASS ON BENSON: Speaking of running backs, there was some sentiment the team might be willing to take a look at Cedric Benson, who was released last week by the Bears after his second arrest of the offseason. Turns out, the Bucs never considered making a waiver claim and haven't given any thought to bringing him in for a workout since he became a free agent Thursday.

LAST WORD ON PLUMMER: The Bucs avoided arbitration last week by agreeing to settle their dispute with retired quarterback Jake Plummer, but they will retain his rights through the end of the 2009 season.

Plummer, 33, remained retired after his trade from Denver last year and paid back $3.5-million of his signing bonus for not fulfilling his contract.

"He was always honest in his opinion," Allen said. "He wasn't going to play. And the previous things that happened to him soured him on football. We reached a resolution he felt okay with and we felt okay. I still think he has something to offer pro football.''

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Bucs' top picks get chance to make impact 06/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 8:20pm]

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