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Now that Pewter Report has had nearly two weeks completely digest the action that has taken place on the practice fields at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, PewterReport.com has decided to give fans a list of the top five disappointing performers from training camp practices along with some in-depth analysis and commentary on each of those players.
1. LB Ryan Nece
Nece beat out veteran LB Dwayne Rudd for the starting strongside linebacker spot in 2003 because he made splash plays during training camp and preseason.
But once the regular season started, those splash plays ceased. That’s why the Bucs signed Ian Gold this offseason. Gold was brought in to beat out Nece, or at least push the third-year linebacker to become a better starter than he was a year ago.
The battle at strongside linebacker hasn’t been close in training camp. Gold has made several splash plays in camp, including the miraculous interception he made while falling on his back and the huge hit he made on running back Brandon Bennett during goal line drills last week.
Pewter Insider subscribers shouldn’t find the fact that Nece is on this list surprising since his name has rarely been mentioned in our Inside Training Camp articles.
Forget about a starting job. Nece needs to focus on securing a roster spot by making the kind of impact on special teams that he made during his rookie season when he notched 11 tackles. It should be interesting to see what Nece does in preseason since the 2002 undrafted free agent hasn’t done much to stand out in camp thus far.
2. G Kerry Jenkins
The only reason Jenkins even made it to Tampa Bay’s training camp was because of the fact that he restructured his contract during the offseason, which substantially lowered his salary cap value.
Even with his cap value lowered, Jenkins likely won’t stick around if he doesn’t win a starting job on the Bucs offensive line. He has a $1.4 million cap value this year, which is entirely too much for a backup.
It looked like Jenkins caught a break when guard Matt O’Dwyer, who was projected to start at left guard, a position Jenkins has started at in 26 games over the last two seasons, suffered a torn pectoral in June, which is an injury that could cost the newcomer his season.
Although he’s listed as the starting left guard on Tampa Bay’s depth chart, Jenkins has rarely been a starter in training camp. Instead, G Cosey Coleman, who underwent intestinal surgery to repair a blockage earlier this year, has been lining up as the team’s starting left guard. The fact that Coleman and center/guard Jason Whittle have shown the ability to be more versatile in camp doesn’t bode well for Jenkins, especially since the 7th-year veteran has been bothered by a shoulder injury and sidelined for almost a week with a sprained ankle.
3. TE Will Heller
He was arguably Tampa Bay’s most impressive player during the June mini-camp, but Heller has cooled off since those mandatory practices.
It’s not that Heller, who has good speed, and great hands and size, hasn’t done well. He’s simply not doing much to stand out the way he did in June. Part of the reason Heller hasn’t been as noticed as he was in June is because the Bucs have been keeping him in at the line of scrimmage to block more than they did in mini-camp. The good news is Heller has done pretty well as a blocker and still holds the edge over rookie TE Nate Lawrie and Doug Zeigler, but he needs to return to form as a receiver in preseason, where he’s expected to receive some significant playing time. Bucs tight ends coach Ron Middleton said earlier in the offseason that Heller was the best tight end on Tampa Bay’s roster, but the second-year player has yet to separate himself from the others in camp.
4. DE Reinard Wilson
Wilson, who spent the last part of the 2003 season on Tampa Bay’s roster, caught our attention during June’s mini-camp practices, displaying a high motor and impressive hustle.
He obviously impressed the Bucs, too, evidenced by the fact that Wilson lined up as Tampa Bay’s starting right end when Simeon Rice was sidelined at the beginning of camp with an irregular heart beat.
Wilson was impressive during the first few days of camp, but he couldn’t maintain any momentum and has since cooled off. The 1997 first-round pick hasn’t shown the high motor and playmaking ability he had in June, but he’s also been hindered and sidelined by a hamstring injury.
While he’s been practicing for the last several days, Wilson is receiving some stiff competition for the backup DE job from Corey Smith, who has shown some speed and playmaking ability of his own. Even left DE Dewayne White, who could win the starting job there, has taken some reps with the second- and third-team defenses at right end.
If he can recapture what he had in June, Wilson will win the backup job behind Rice. If he can’t, Wilson could be out of a job by the time the regular season starts. Of course, special teams play will also play a factor when the Bucs determine which player to keep — Wilson or Smith.
5. S Will Allen
When Tampa Bay landed safety Will Allen with its 2004 fourth-round draft pick, the Bucs thought they got a steal since the defensive back put up some impressive numbers at Ohio State.
But after a less-than-stellar showing during the offseason and through training camp thus far, the Bucs might be wishing they had waited a round or two to draft Allen.
Allen caught the ire of Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin early in camp by being out of position and getting beat too many times. He hasn’t done much to make up for those mistakes, which could put him in danger of making the team this season, especially since John Howell and Scott Frost have performed much better and would give the Bucs more experienced backups behind starters Dwight Smith and Jermaine Phillips.
The Bucs are attempting to crosstrain Allen, who is currently listed as a third-stringer, at both safety spots, but he simply hasn’t shown the aggressiveness or instincts that made him a hot commodity coming out of Ohio State.
If he doesn’t improve in preseason, don’t be surprised if the Bucs release Allen and attempt to sign him to their eight-man practice squad. Cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly took some time to pick up Tampa Bay’s defensive scheme, and Allen appears to be traveling down a similar path. The only difference was both Barber and Kelly showed they were able to contribute on special teams while they made some strides as backups on defense. Allen will have to earn his keep on special teams to secure a 53-man roster spot this season.
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