With only one warm-up game remaining before the Detroit Lions come to Raymond James Stadium to kick off the 2011 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris said Tuesday that plenty of position battles remain in competition. Morris knows just how hard players have worked to be named to the 2011 roster and he delivered a brief, opening statement of appreciation to each one of them before taking his standard post-practice questions.
A potential third-string quarterback position is one that is still up for grabs in regards to Rudy Carpenter and Jonathan Crompton. Having three quarterbacks on a team roster may not be the new norm, Morris said, but he is not sure where the team will end up on that decision.
“It’s definitely an option to keep three,” Morris said. “I know with a lot of people the new wave is going to go with maybe two. Rudy’s done a nice job for us and I’m going to let him go out there and battle it and kind of play that way, play for that and let us make those tough decision in how we’ve got to do it. He and Crompton will get a chance to go out there this week and compete. I look forward to this battle, it’s nice.”
Many position battles that Morris and the Bucs will have to consider are on the defensive line and he said he likes how the unit has improved, especially in the sacks department.
“Defensive line, I’ll mention those guys first,” Morris said. “To have the guys we’ve got battling there now compared to where we’ve been has been amazing. I’ve loved watching the commitment, the work, the effort. I don’t know how many sacks we’ve got but I know they’re high. I know stats are for losers, but that stat in particular is one we need to improve and it’s certainly something that has improved in this preseason.”
Tampa Bay’s 26 total sacks last year tied the team with Jacksonville for the second lowest total in the league. Through three preseason games, the Bucs have racked up 13 and are one sack behind three other teams leading the league.
“Right now we’re somewhere in the double digits in sacks,” Morris continued. “That’s just been awesome. We’ve opened two games with sacks. I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve seen that, not since guys wearing Nos. 99 and No. 97 were running around here. That’s been a definite improvement and a definite battle and certainly that will be a hard position to turn down.”
Wide receivers, as well as many other positions, are still up for grabs with this team.
“Last year we were wide receiver heavy and it could certainly happen again,” Morris said while transitioning his comments to the offense. “Then you’ve got other kids in there battling that just showed up on the scene – the Ed Gants, the [Maurice] Prices of the world – those guys showing up and making plays in the games and also competing every day at a high level in practice. Those guys certainly make it tough on you.
“We got some position battles all across the board. It’s a good thing that it’s getting harder to cut down your team. I can go on and on with the positions but it’s certainly getting tougher.
Just as the Buccaneers were not very busy in adding through free agency after the offseason lockout ended, Morris said he does not expect the team to be especially active pulling in many players who have been cut from other rosters.
One reason for the team not being as active in making any additions is that there is not as much room for improvement on the roster as last year. The Bucs currently have 19 players on their roster that were picked up as free agents or off the waiver wire last season. Some of those names include projected starters or contributors, such as: RB LeGarrette Blount, LG Ted Larsen, DT Frank Okam, WR Dezmon Briscoe, CB D.J. Johnson, DE George Johnson, RB Kregg Lumpkin and LB Tyrone McKenzie.
Another reason is that Morris and the Bucs are confident in the group that has been put in place already.
“We obviously won’t be as active,” Morris said. “Mark Dominik is up there looking at people right now; he’s evaluating everybody’s roster. We really don’t have as much room to do that as we did last year, but that’s a sign that we’re getting better as a team as well. You may see some transactions, claims and things of that nature, but for the most part, we don’t have as much room as we did last year. We feel good about a lot of our football team and that’s good. I like my guys.”