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: August 05, 2008, 12:52:10 PM


Aug. 4, 2008
By Pete Prisco
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
Tell Pete your opinion!   

Editor's note: Clark Judge, Pete Prisco and Mike Freeman are traveling to every NFL training camp and filing daily reports and analysis. Next camp report from Prisco: Dolphins

Bucs: Five things to know |  Prisco
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When you think about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the past 10 years, you think suffocating defense, Jon Gruden's many faces, Warren Sapp's belly and bluster, the class of Derrick Brooks, big hits by John Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson's playful look-at-me ways and, of course, the magical Super Bowl run of 2002.

Donald Penn is the most surprising O-line find for the Bucs. (Getty Images)   
The offensive line, even in the Super Bowl winning year, has never been much to talk about.

It is now.

For the first time in the Gruden era, the Bucs have the makings of something special up front. They have talented, big, physical players at all five starting positions. Even more exciting for Gruden is the age of the five players, with two 25-year-old tackles, guards who are 23 and 24 and a center who is the old man at 27.

"It should be a pretty good group as long as the coaching doesn't screw it up," Gruden said during a break from camp here at Disney's Wide World of Sports facility.

He's kidding, isn't he? Line coach Bill Muir is one of the best in football and he should mold his line into one of the league's best come December. Giving Gruden a good line for a change will really allow him to show off his play calling.

With veteran left tackle Luke Petitgout still not practicing after missing most of last season with a knee injury, the line reads this way from left to right: T Donald Penn, G Arron Sears, C Jeff Faine, G Davin Joseph and T Jeremy Trueblood.

Out of Nowhere Man 
 WR Antonio Bryant was out of football in 2007. So despite being a veteran, that makes him a candidate for this category. Bryant has impressed the Bucs with his work and attitude so far, the latter perhaps a surprise to the teams he's played for in the past. Bryant was suspended by the league in 2006 for a banned substance and had run-ins with the coaching staff in San Francisco. "He has an environment that if he's going to take off this is a great place for him," Gruden said. "He's really big and really fast and really talented. If he can gain consistency and stay with us, we'll stay with him. We have a chance for a great marriage." Look for Bryant to be the team's third receiver behind Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. 
Who is your Out of Nowhere Man? 
Joseph, Sears and Trueblood were high draft picks, while Penn came as an undrafted free agent and Faine signed as a big-money free agent last March.

"We have a lot of potential to do a lot of things," Joseph said. "We can't fall into the trap of just banking on talent. It's all about work. We have to keep working to get better."

The Bucs ran the ball well last season, but had problems with pass protection, which is understandable with a young group. That's why Faine is so important. After two years with the New Orleans Saints, Faine signed a six-year, $37-million deal with the Bucs that makes him the highest-paid center in the league.

It is a deal that opened a lot of eyes around the league because of the big money, but the Bucs need to be better inside. John Wade, the center the past five seasons, had problems getting to the second level and handling big, powerful tackles on his nose.

The Bucs finished 11th in the league in rushing last season, despite injuries to their backs, but Faine should help improve that number.

"I hope that's the reason they brought me in," Faine said.

Community Focus 
 One man vs. One fan 
"If they can avoid the distraction of the Brett Favre situation they can go pretty far if Jeff Garcia stays healthy."

Thirdray: "This year they have a 1st place schedule (last year it was NOT) and every team in the Bucs Division has gotten better and the Bucs have only upgraded at center." 
At 27, he's the oldest of the five. He's also the most experienced, which helps the two young guards next to him.

"He shows us what to do by his actions on the field," Sears said.

At 6-3, 291 pounds, Faine is the smallest of the five, but he's smart, crafty and strong. Getting a push inside is a must for running the football, and Faine has that ability. With power players in Sears and Joseph on either side, look for more room inside for Tampa Bay backs.

"Faine is the icing on the cake," Joseph said.

Joseph, listed at 6-3, 313 pounds, might be the most gifted of the group. He was a first-round pick in 2006 and has started 28 games the past two years. Sears started all 16 games as a rookie in 2007, showing potential Pro Bowl ability, and he will be even quicker this season. Sears dropped his weight from 331 to 305 this year.

"I haven't been this light in a long time," Sears said.

Like when?

"When I was 15," Sears said. Fifteen? "Yeah, I was always a big kid," Sears said. "But I feel so much better. I'm moving a lot better."

Cadillac Williams

Positives: Williams was on pace for a solid season in 2007 before he got hurt. He had the chance to finish with 12 rushing touchdowns based on his first four outings. The Bucs will give him the opportunity to start once he's healthy.
Negatives: Earnest Graham played well in place of Williams, and the Bucs also added Warrick Dunn this offseason. Graham will score the touchdowns even if Williams returns because Graham is the bigger back. Williams has never done well catching the ball, so making him a third-down back is out of the question. There are still plenty of doubts about his return to health.
Outlook: It's not a bad idea to draft Williams with a late-round pick in all Fantasy leagues and keep him as a reserve if you have the roster space. If he returns to form, Williams could be a steal. If not, you can cut him the first time you need to add a quality player.
-- Jamey Eisenberg

Buccaneers draft averages
RB: Earnest Graham (34th overall)
QB: Jeff Garcia (167th overall)
WR: Joey Galloway (82nd overall)
TE: None drafted
2008 Fantasy Draft Prep 

Trueblood has started 29 games the past two years at right tackle. He and Joseph make up one of the best young right sides in the league.

"Jeremy is a guy I want to play my entire career next to," Joseph said. "We have something special developing together."

Penn is the surprise of the line. After being released by the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, the Bucs signed him as a street free agent where he was inactive for the final 13 games. When Petitgout went down last season, Penn was forced into action and held up well for a first-time starter.

With Petitgout battling to get back, Penn has manned the tackle spot the entire offseason and into this training camp.

"Penn's the surprise," Joseph said. "Now you have five guys who are smart, young and talented. We have the makings of a good offensive line."

There is nothing sexy about that. Talking about Brett Favre coming to Tampa Bay is a glamour story. The coming together of the five young linemen is not. But to win in the league, no matter who the quarterback, those guys up front have to have success.

For Bucs fans, who have spent most of their existence craving a top line, it has to be exciting to see it come together, seeing five players who hang out together bonding as one. It's even better since they're all so young, the future so promising.

"It's different being the oldest guy at 27," Faine said. "It's weird. I've never been in that position. But you can see us coming together. You can see that these guys haven't developed some of the bad habits that veterans have. It's going to be fun to see us grow together."

It certainly is different seeing that in Tampa.




Posts : 566
#1 : August 05, 2008, 03:08:03 PM

wow. i'm feeling horny.


Pro Bowler

Posts : 1226
#2 : August 05, 2008, 03:35:14 PM



Hall of Famer

Posts : 2447
#3 : August 05, 2008, 04:07:52 PM

The surprise of the article is that Sears is down to 305 lb the lightest he has been since he was 15 years old. We have heard that Trueblood lost weight this offseason but not Sears. I wonder what we should expect from him this year


Hall of Famer
Posts : 5630
#4 : August 05, 2008, 04:18:30 PM

Quick - someone email this article to Favre!  ;D


Pro Bowler

Posts : 1330
#5 : August 05, 2008, 04:22:12 PM

quick bury this article. delete this thread. hack the website. this should help the pro-bowl cause for these OL .. which should help the price tag soar when contracts come due .. i like it better when no one around the league knows their names.
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