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Now that Pewter Report has had two weeks to take in all the action 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 impressive performers from training camp practices along with some in-depth analysis and commentary on each of those players.

While there have been several players who have performed well, such as wide receiver Joey Galloway and fullback Mike Alstott, the players on this list have done something extra to surpass our pre-camp expectations.

1. OLB Ian Gold
Nothing pleases a general manager more than to have one of the top free agent acquisitions make a splash right out of the gate. Making a big play or two in the season opener is great. Providing some instant impact in the preseason games is an excellent way of getting some quick returns on your investment. But making a splash play on the very first practice of training camp really gets a G.M.’s blood pumping, and that’s exactly what Gold did by racing alongside speedy halfback Jamel White 40 yards downfield and leaping high to pick off a pass.

That brilliant interception has been one of several highlight reel plays Gold, a 6-foot, 218-pound linebacker, has made during the first two weeks of training camp. Another standout play was forcing a fumble in a full-contact goal line drill by nailing running back Brandon Bennett. Despite his smallish frame, Gold has lived up to his reputation as a big hitter, or striker, as linebackers coach Joe Barry puts it.

The Bucs signed Gold for his tackling prowess and his ability to cover backs and tight ends. He has made several plays in the passing game, including providing blanket coverage, swatting down passes and recording a couple of picks in camp.

Gold has yet to play in a preseason game for the Bucs, but after arriving in Tampa Bay with Pro Bowl credentials and an impressive and productive resume, he has likely earned the starting strongside linebacker spot already. In fact, he is gaining some separation from Ryan Nece, who was last year’s starting linebacker on the strong side.

2. LT Anthony Davis
PewterReport.com’s Pewter Insider subscribers were first introduced to Anthony Davis, the Bucs’ budding star along the offensive line, in June during the Inside Bucs Mini-Camp premium stories, and again in July, just days before training camp in a full-length feature on this camp “sleeper.” Davis has done his part by living up to his advanced billing with a great two weeks of training camp.

With an ankle injury to starting left tackle Derrick Deese, and knee injuries to both right tackles Todd Steussie and Kenyatta Walker limiting their services at training camp, Davis has taken a ton of reps at both left and right tackle, which has only increased his versatility. At 6-foot-4, 319 pounds, Davis is a big, agile, powerful left tackle who has all the tools to become a starter one day with continued development.

With Deese out for several weeks following ankle surgery, Davis is expected to get at least a couple of starts at left tackle. What he needs is playing time and game experience, and thanks to Deese being shelved for a few weeks in the preseason, he’ll get it.

Davis, an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech last year, was a post-draft steal by the Bucs. After a strong showing in a few preseason games, the “sleeper” tag will officially be removed.

3. QB Chris Simms
The team is maintaining the position that Simms and Brian Griese are competing for the right to backup Brad Johnson this season. With Tampa Bay yet to play in a preseason game, that may very well be the case. But through the first two weeks of training camp, it has been Simms who has been the most accurate, most consistent and most dynamic in terms of playmaking ability.

Simms, who is in his second year in Jon Gruden’s system, has shown an impressive command of the offense in camp. He is confident, not only in his arm or in getting the called plays executed precisely, but in his audibles. Gruden has indicated that once Simms has learned how to deal with blitzes by audibling to the right play and properly executing it, he would be ready to see game action.

While he may not be ready to start an NFL regular season game yet, Simms will likely see time in mop-up situations this year just to get him some game experience. And if he has a strong preseason like he did in 2003, as many expect him to, he will be Johnson’s backup this season.

4. DE Dewayne White
Sometimes players who receive some buzz coming out of mini-camp fail to live up to the hype once training camp rolls around. Players like defensive end Reinard Wilson and tight end Will Heller, who are on PewterReport.com’s 5 Most Disappointing Training Camp Players list, haven’t lived up to their advanced billing. But one player who has is continued to build on a strong mini-camp during the first two weeks of training camp is second-year defensive end Dewayne White.

The out of shape rookie known last year as “Captain Fatigue” by his teammates, has gotten his body in great condition in 2004. The well-conditioned White was given the label as the team’s “most improved player” of the offseason by head coach Jon Gruden, and his play thus far in training camp has backed that up.

Whether it is dropping into coverage in the flat on a zone blitz and picking off a pass and returning it for a touchdown, using multiple pass rush moves to get to the quarterback, coming up from behind a receiver and forcing a fumble, or dropping into pass coverage and breaking up a pass 30 yards downfield intended for Edell Shepherd, White has been a pleasant surprise for the Bucs this August.

Team officials privately hoped that he would push for some playing time at left defensive end in 2004, as Ellis Wyms has done over the years, but his constant playmaking ability in training camp has the Bucs anticipating White will push incumbent Greg Spires for the starting role this year.

5. FB Greg Comella
If Comella can be as productive in the Bucs’ four preseason games as he has been in the first two weeks of training camp practice, he’ll win the backup fullback spot behind Mike Alstott. Comella has the multidimensional skills head coach Jon Gruden loves in a fullback.

While he isn’t much of a threat to run the ball, Comella is an accomplished pass catcher and blocker. In training camp, he has made more impact plays than any of the team’s other fullback candidates – Jameel Cook, Deon Dyer or Casey Cramer. The muscle-bound, 6-foot-1, 240-pound Comella has pancaked linebacker Marquise Cooper, drilled linebacker Ian Gold, and mixed it up with scrappy free safety Dwight Smith over the past two weeks. The Bucs love his tenacity and aggressiveness.

While Comella has good speed and can be a threat in the flats or in the seam as a receiver, it may just be his special teams prowess that gives him the edge over the competition. As a rookie with the New York Giants, he led his team in special teams tackles and could be a core member of Tampa Bay’s special teams, too.
This story is intended to be read by PewterInsider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on PewterReport.com. Buccaneers merchandise in the world.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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