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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' reserve receivers struggle in first preseason game

NASHVILLE — The Bucs entered Saturday's preseason opener at a significant disadvantage at receiver.

Starters Antonio Bryant (knee) and Michael Clayton (hamstring) skipped the road trip with injuries, leaving unproven and untested receivers.

And after facing a big test, most remain unproven.

A few dropped balls and the overall lack of impressive receptions leaves the Bucs wondering whether their apparent lack of receiver depth is a problem.

Cortez Hankton dropped two balls in the first half, Maurice Stovall missed two chances for big plays on catches with a high degree of difficulty and tight end John Gilmore dropped a would-be first down. And separation from defensive backs seemed nonexistent at times, leaving the quarterbacks to scramble.

The lone bright spot — at least early, against Tennessee's top defenders — was Brian Clark, who caught a 24-yard strike from Byron Leftwich for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Chamberlain grad had two catches for 29 yards.

"It's what the preseason is all about," Clark said. "It's what it's designed for, for guys to … do the best to show why they belong on the team."

Rookie Sammie Stroughter led the Bucs with 42 yards on four catches, but there were few eye-opening plays. Clayton is scheduled to return next weekend at Jacksonville and Bryant is projected to be ready by opening day.

MORRIS DEBUTS: Raheem Morris coached his first game and seemed at ease with his new duties, Leftwich said.

"I love him," Leftwich said. "You're so happy for a guy like that. … There are a lot of guys in that locker room who will run through a wall for that guy because of the type person he is."

a workout: Recently signed P Dirk Johnson, in for the injured Josh Bidwell, didn't do poorly. His first punt went 39 yards and was returned just 1 yard. His second was a 46-yarder the Titans fair caught at their 9. In the first half, he punted five times for an average of 41.4 yards.

Remember me?: Former Bucs DT Jovan Haye, who signed with the Titans in the offseason, made consecutive stops of RB Derrick Ward late in the first quarter. In the second quarter, one play after inadvertently hitting Leftwich on the knee (Leftwich was limping slightly), Haye sacked him for a 17-yard loss.

Safety first: Clark also was involved in the second-quarter safety, when he was held in the end zone while rushing P Craig Hentrich. The last time the Bucs recorded a safety in a preseason game was against Washington in 1997, when DT Tyoka Jackson sacked Trent Green.

Remembering McNair: As the Titans took the field, several players raced to the end zone, took a knee and pointed skyward in memory of former star QB Steve McNair, who was shot and killed last month. A moment of silence followed, and after the Titans' first series, there was a video tribute to him.

In and out: Sean Mahan started at center for Jeff Faine (groin). Other Bucs out were K Matt Bryant (hamstring), WRs Joe Filani (hamstring) and Kelly Campbell (quadriceps), LB Angelo Crowell (hamstring) and RB Cadillac Williams (coaches' decision). Meanwhile, former St. Petersburg Catholic and Florida State star WR Chris Davis was out (hamstring) for the Titans.

Injuries: CB Will Allen injured a shoulder late in the first half making a tackle and WR Dexter Jackson injured an ankle in the second half. Neither returned.

Nice play, rook: Rookie DE Jarriett Buie, from USF, assisted on a stop of RB Javon Ringer for a 4-yard loss in the fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' reserve receivers struggle in first preseason game 08/16/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 9:36am]
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