Which Bucs players are likely to have a sophomore slump? Which players are likely to sustain the success of 2010? Find out those answers and more in this break down.
Every year in the NFL some players enjoy breakout seasons, while other players have disappointing seasons compared to the success of a previous year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have seen their fair share of that trend with the likes of former wide receiver Michael Clayton starting out on fire only to disappoint in the next season and beyond.
The Bucs also enjoyed a breakout season from quarterback Josh Freeman after a mixed debut as a rookie. Freeman proved to be the franchise signal caller he was drafted to be as a 22-year old starting quarterback.
In 2010, the Buccaneers had a number of other players enjoy productive seasons with Freeman. This year the Bucs are hoping to make a playoff run and in order to accomplish that they will need a lot of the breakout performers to build off those seasons and avoid a sophomore slump.
Here Pewter Report will take a look at which players most likely to suffer the dreaded sophomore slump and which players are best suited to sustain the success of 2010. TWO CANDIDATES TO SLUMPWIDE RECEIVER DEZMON BRISCOE
At the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine Briscoe told NFL teams that one of his negatives was that he was lazy. After falling in the draft to the sixth round, Briscoe seemed to pick up his work ethic in his brief stay with the Cincinnati Bengals. As a result, Briscoe looked better to the Bucs staff when he showed up in September after being signed to the Buccaneers practice squad. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Briscoe bided his time and impressed Tampa Bay in practice. Late in the season Briscoe was elevated to the roster and he performed well. He caught six passes for 93 yards and one touchdown in the final two games of the season. The successful end to the season left Bucs fans thinking that Briscoe was in store for big things in 2011. This offseason his work ethic has been said to be not good. Pewter Report has heard that Briscoe has not been working with Freeman and the other receivers. He also did not attend the Buccaneers player-organized mini-camp in late June. The 21-year old Briscoe could use more time with Freeman in order to develop chemistry. After not taking advantage of the offseason, Briscoe is in jeopardy of getting beaten out for the third receiver spot by Micheal Spurlock, Sammie Stroughter or Preston Parker.
RUNNING BACK LeGARRETTE BLOUNT
Blount is another player that has not been as diligent about working out with Freeman and teammates. Tampa Bay saw Blount burst onto the NFL landscape when he averaged five yards per carry with 1,007 yards rushing and six touchdowns in only seven starts (13 games played). The 6-foot, 247-pounder bulldozed his way and leapt over many a defender to provide a new element to the Buccaneers offense. One issue that held Blount back in 2010 was his lack of knowledge of the Bucs playbook. Blount came to the team at the end of the preseason and never mastered the offense. As a result, the Bucs did not trust Blount to be on third down passing situations and serve as a blitz protector for Freeman. Blount is going to have to re-learn a lot of the Bucs offense once the lockout ends. Spending the offseason studying last season’s playbook with Freeman would have been a benefit for Blount and the Buccaneers, but that is not what happened.LEAST LIKELY TO SLUMPCORNERBACK E.J. BIGGERS
While Biggers is not entering his second NFL season we include him on this list because he spent his entire rookie year on injured reserve and did not see the field at all. The 2010 season was his first action on the field and Biggers made the most of his opportunity. After winning the nickel cornerback job in training camp, Biggers went on to start five games in place of the suspended and injured Aqib Talib. Biggers recorded 53 tackles with one interception and 12 passes defensed. The 6-foot, 180-pound Biggers matched up well in some challenging circumstances. Biggers, 24, has spent this offseason working out in South Florida and looks like he is ready to build off of his strong debut. Biggers will have to beat out second-year corner Myron Lewis for the nickel corner spot, but both corners figure to get a lot of playing time in 2011. GUARD TED LARSEN
Larsen broke into the starting lineup in Week 7 and locked down the starting left guard position for the majority of the 2010 season. In starting 11 games, Larsen showed the ability to be a strong run blocker and quality pass protector. The North Carolina State product has spent the offseason working on getting stronger. While Larsen did not have access to the Buccaneers’ strength and conditioning staff, he has attacked the weight room to add more power for the 2011 season. Many offensive and defensive linemen need to work on reforming bodies early in their NFL careers. Larsen has done that this offseason and as a result he should be in position to follow up his strong rookie year with a quality second season. Last year Larsen was listed at 6-foot-2, 305-pounds. Right now Larsen is said to be five to 10 pounds heavier. That added bulk should help Larsen to continue to improve in his second season. WIDE RECEIVER ARRELIOUS BENN
The year started slowly for Benn, but Benn came on strong in the second half of the season before a torn ACL ended his season early. Benn, 22, has been rehabbing hard and is well ahead of schedule. While he is not full-go in sprinting and cutting, Benn is getting close. After participating on a limited basis at the player-organized mini-camp, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder Benn looks like he is in phenomenal shape. When Benn is cleared to practice freely is still unknown, but it looks likely to happen early in the preseason if not at the start of training camp. Last year the issue that held Benn back was getting the offense down. He did that by the middle of the season and as a result finished the season well. This offseason Benn has been regularly working out with Freeman and the playbook hurdles that slowed Benn down early in 2010 should not be an issue this year. In nine starts Benn totaled 25 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 15.8 yards per catch. It would be surprising if Benn does not improve those numbers in 2011. SAFETY CODY GRIMM
At the beginning of the 2010 season the Virginia Tech product Grimm was projected to be a backup that would be a core special teams player. After replacing suspended starter Tanard Jackson, Grimm recorded 61 tackles (51 solo) with two passes broken up, two interceptions and one returned for a touchdown. Grimm (5-11, 210) started nine games before breaking his ankle and finishing the season on injured reserve. Grimm can work out without restrictions right now and is nearly 100 percent healthy. It seems unlikely that Grimm will have a sophomore slump because Grimm is a player that is successful from excellent instincts. That attribute has kept cornerback Ronde Barber productive into his 30s. Grimm is a natural football player, so a drop off in play in his second season seems very unlikely. WIDE RECEIVER MIKE WILLIAMS
Williams burst onto the NFL scene when he caught 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie. He started all 16 games and was a finalist to be the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. Williams’ averaged 14.8 yards per catch and was a consistent source for big plays for the Buccaneers. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Williams learned a lot from Clayton during training camp last year, and Clayton talked to Williams about how his career fell off track and it started with the dreaded sophomore slump. The 24-year old Williams is very cognizant of avoiding a drop in play in his second season. He has been working closely with Freeman throughout the offseason and has learned to run the offense at the Z (flanker) and slot receiver positions. Last year Williams was almost exclusively the X (split end) receiver. With the work he has put in this offseason, while gaining the experience of going against NFL cornerbacks, Williams looks like the he is ready to improve upon his stellar rookie production.
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