Clear79° WeatherClear79° Weather

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers ensnared in the quarterback battle as well as their own drama.

TAMPA — You are Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown, and your entire future is in someone else's hands.

It's one preseason game, maybe three series, as few as 12 plays, to decide who will become the Bucs' starting quarterback.

Every pass you throw tonight against the Dolphins is a career egg toss, and you have to trust the guy on the receiving end will handle it with care.

So how confident are you in Maurice Stovall, Brian Clark and Sammie Stroughter?

Together, they have 25 career receptions in a combined six NFL seasons.

Antonio Bryant is out until Sept. 13 recovering from a meniscus tear in his knee. Michael Clayton came out of his break on a route last week at Jacksonville and tweaked his hamstring.

So Mo, B.C. and the rookie could hold the entire QB race in their hands.

"We understand the importance of the race at quarterback," Clark said. "But we have to do our jobs as well. We want to help the quarterbacks, but you've got to earn a job, too."

Coach Raheem Morris says injuries to his starting receivers have provided a level playing field for Leftwich and McCown.

"The quarterbacks are working with the same wide receivers, and we'll have a nice, equal battle to see what we can do," he said.

There's a lot at stake for the wideouts, too. All have had good moments during the preseason. Clark, 25, made a nice adjustment to a Leftwich pass thrown slightly behind him for a touchdown in the opener at Tennessee.

Last week at Jacksonville, Stroughter, 23, provided McCown with great field position after a 75-yard kickoff return, setting up a touchdown. Then the rookie from Oregon State scored on a 9-yard pass that McCown threaded between two defenders.

Stovall, 24, who has been plagued by injuries, led the Bucs with five catches for 42 yards Saturday.

Clark, however, took a step back, dropping two passes, including one on third down that could have extended a drive for Leftwich.

"We've got who we've got," receivers coach Richard Mann said. "My thing is to get them to the point where they understand what to do so when the time comes they'll perform. That's why I've always tried to coach everybody, because sooner or later they might have to play.

"(Clark) dropped that one ball, but he made a good catch earlier with a guy bearing down on him. Then, in a wide-open space, he drops one. That's when the eyes get too big. He's in a wide-open space and he saw (an opportunity) to run after the catch. That's a no-no."

Clark, a former Chamberlain High standout who enters his fourth NFL season with five career receptions, is looking to bounce back against the Dolphins.

"I had a terrible week last week," he said. "I had a dropped ball that's extremely uncharacteristic of me, regardless of what people might say. Those are situations they're looking for guys to step up.

"At the same time, it's bouncing back, because we're men, we're human. We're not perfect, and we're going to make mistakes. But who's going to be the guy that bounces back?"

Morris says Stroughter, a seventh-round pick, has been the most consistent among the receivers battling for a roster spot — a list that includes Cortez Hankton, Dexter Jackson, Mario Urrutia and Kelly Campbell.

"Coach Mann always says people have a funny way of remembering the last thing that they've seen," Clark said. "I have two more preseason games to show why I belong on this team."

And tonight, the great quarterback debate may be in his hands.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers ensnared in the quarterback battle as well as their own drama. 08/26/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 11:34pm]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...