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CadillacPower24_2006

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: October 13, 2006, 09:23:31 AM

The last time WR Michael Clayton reached the end zone, he was putting the finishing touches on one of the best rookie seasons in Bucs history.

It's been 18 games, and counting, for Clayton since he caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Chris Simms at Arizona in the 2004 season finale. Fellow WR Joey Galloway has scored 12 times since the start of last season, while Clayton keeps telling himself to be patient.

"There's no need to bring my frustrations to anyone else, but it's tough as hell," Clayton said Thursday about the prolonged scoring drought. "You want to be able to go out there and show what you've got. Sometimes, you ask yourself what's my future in this league?"

The former first-round pick out of LSU was troubled by injuries last year, finishing with 32 catches in 14 games. An intense offseason regimen returned Clayton to full health, yet the end zone remains elusive.

"We had a couple of pretty good looks in Atlanta, but we weren't able to get him the ball," Coach Jon Gruden said. "Good things happen to those who wait, I'm told. I think he's close to being the Michael Clayton we drafted. He's working his tail off."

Clayton, who posted 80 receptions for 1,193 yards in 2004, is on pace for 40 catches and 468 yards.

"Getting into the end zone isn't all that easy in this league," Galloway said. "A whole lot of people are looking for the end zone and guys get paid money to keep us out of there. I'm confident things are going to work out for Mike."

DIFFERENT CAT: The Bengals represent the stiffest test to date for a struggling Bucs defense that may be forced to blitz extensively Sunday.

Cincinnati boasts a solid offensive line, especially at tackle, and the Bengals are averaging 24.5 points per game with Carson Palmer excelling once again under center. Palmer has made a full recovery from a severe knee injury suffered against Pittsburgh in the opening playoff round.

"He's really something throwing the ball," Gruden said. "That's an unbelievable story, the injury he came back from. That's a catastrophic injury and for what he's done, I'm really just glad to see it. I'm just excited to have him back in the game. He's clearly one of the best, if not the best, in football."

Palmer led the league in completion percentage and touchdown passes last year.

INJURY UPDATE: Bucs C John Wade was added to the injury sheet Thursday, listed as probable with a sore ankle.

CB Juran Bolden (hip) returned to practice but is still listed as questionable, along with CB Brian Kelly (turf toe), DE Simeon Rice (shoulder), TE Dave Moore (rib) and WRs Mark Jones (hamstring) and Maurice Stovall (back).

Former Bucs S Dexter Jackson remains questionable for Cincinnati with an ankle injury.

LIKE 'EM YOUNG: Remember when Gruden was portrayed as a head coach partial to veterans?

QB Bruce Gradkowski will make his second pro start Sunday and there's a good chance the right side of the offensive line also will be manned by rookies.

Second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood comes off his first NFL start at right tackle and top draft choice Davin Joseph, fully recovered from a sprained knee, is slated to open at right guard.

BUC BITS: The Bengals own an eight-game winning streak against NFC opponents. … Cincinnati has cashed in with eight TDs and four FGs in its 12 excursions into the red zone. … Galloway's average of 19.9 yards per catch ranks second to Chicago's Bernard Berrian (21.7) among players with more than 12 receptions.

BucsFan1976

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#1 : October 13, 2006, 09:34:11 AM

Im confident that Grads will get Clayton the ball. Clayton might be having trouble with separation but Grads has shown that he can thread the needle.  BTW, any word on how Stovall hurt his back?

wildbuc99

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#2 : October 13, 2006, 09:35:45 AM

  I hope he finds it this Sunday, I think Tampa can win but we need everyone to step it up another level. If Clayton would just compliment Galloway and the running game that would be enough to win the game I think.  Assuming our D plays like they did last year, but thats wishful thinking.. :-


keeponbucn

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#3 : October 13, 2006, 10:00:16 AM

He's pressing. What amazes me is every defense know Galloway's the threat and still catches TD's. I thought Clayton would shine with galloway being here but it's just the opposite. Makes you wonder if Clayton can get the seperation needed to get the pill.



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#4 : October 13, 2006, 10:34:46 AM

He's pressing. What amazes me is every defense know Galloway's the threat and still catches TD's. I thought Clayton would shine with galloway being here but it's just the opposite. Makes you wonder if Clayton can get the seperation needed to get the pill.

He got 80 catches when he was the only WR.  You'd think they would've taken him away.  I think he has the tools.  We'll see how he develops with Grads...
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