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Yesterday, PewterReport.com listed the top 10 Buccaneers heading into training camp based on their offseason performance. Today, PewterReport.com lists the 10 Buccaneers whose stock is falling based on their efforts in the OTAs and mini-camps as the players report to Tampa Bay’s 2007 training camp on Thursday, July 26.
10. WR MICHAEL CLAYTON Clayton is healthy and has regained some of the speed he once had before a knee injury in 2005 slowed him down. But he is still plagued with momentary lapses of concentration that produce too many dropped passes. Three years removed from a stellar rookie campaign in which he led the team with seven touchdowns and had over 1,000 yards, Clayton is fighting to cling on to his starting receiver spot at the flanker position. Maurice Stovall and David Boston are breathing down Clayton’s neck and unless his game is razor sharp in the preseason, he could fall all the way to fourth or fifth on the depth chart – or perhaps even off the roster with a bad preseason.
9. DT ELLIS WYMS Wyms has had a fairly good spring at One Buccaneer Place, but sometimes fairiy good just isn’t good enough. That appears to be the case with the veteran under tackle, who has fallen out of favor with the Bucs’ brass, presumably because he can’t stay healthy. Wyms had a golden opportunity to become the starting under tackle last year but blew it with a high ankle sprain. While the injury wasn’t Wyms’ fault, the team just appears ready to move on and he has fallen back to backup status. Perhaps it is due to his $3.9 million salary and the fact that Tampa Bay doesn’t think he is playing up his contract.
8. DE SIMEON RICE Rice was awfully quiet on and off the field this spring and summer. He didn’t work out with the team on the field this offseason. Instead, Rice rehabbed his surgically repaired shoulder and didn’t grant the media any interview requests. Rice didn’t participate in the team’s mandatory mini-camp, but is expected to be ready to go for training camp. Whether he is 100 percent and can get back to his dominating ways in 2007 remains to be seen.
7. C DAN BUENNING With John Wade aging and losing some effectiveness, Tampa Bay would like to get bigger and more stout at the center position, especially in the rugged NFC South. Wade is listed at 299 pounds, while Buenning weighs 320 pounds. The only problem for Buenning is that he didn’t participate in team drills during the OTAs and mini-camps due to his recovery from ACL surgery last fall. Buenning did participate as the center in the individual periods with the quarterbacks and receivers and snapped the ball thousands of time. However, snapping the ball in shorts and a helmet and playing center in full pads are two different things. It will be interesting to see how Buenning fares at camp.
6. CB ALAN ZEMAITIS PewterReport.com was the first to recognize Zemaitis’ struggles this offseason. A shoulder injury last year prevented him from getting on the field during the regular season, but with a clean bill of health this spring and summer, the second-year cornerback has had issues with his footwork and technique. Despite being a fourth-round pick a year ago, Zemaitis is far from a lock to make the team. The former Penn State star doesn’t have great quickness and speed. When the pads come on, he’ll need to use his size and strength to be a physical presence in camp and in the preseason.
5. TE T.J. WILLIAMS Williams has been recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered last June at the team’s mini-camp. He’s a virtual unknown because he missed all of training camp and the preseason in 2006, didn’t play a down for the Buccaneers and went on injured reserve. Williams also missed the 2007 offseason program while he was rehabbing his injury and now must make up for lost time. The fact that he has to battle Alex Smith, Anthony Becht and Jerramy Stevens for a roster spot doesn’t bode well for the North Carolina State product.
4. CB TORRIE COX Cox had a good offseason on the field and put himself right in the mix with Alan Zemaitis, Marcus Hamilton and Sammy Davis for the dime cornerback spot. However, the fact that he drew a four-game suspension from the league for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy (possibly alcohol, due to his previous DUI arrests) severely hurts his chances of making the team. Yes, he can participate in training camp and the preseason, but he’s going to have to light it up on the gridiron to put himself back into the good graces of the front office.
3. QB ZAC TAYLOR Taylor is one of the seven million quarterbacks Jon Gruden has signed this year. Actually, it’s just seven QBs, but it probably feels like seven million to Taylor, who hardly received any reps during the OTAs. The most action the rookie has received to date was at the rookie mini-camp back in early May. The good news for Taylor is that he knows the system and the playbook after being coached at Nebraska by Bill Callahan, Gruden’s former offensive line coach in Oakland. The bad news is that unless two or three injuries strike at the QB position in training camp, Taylor won’t receive many reps and seems destined for the practice squad.
2. QB CHRIS SIMMS Simms’ offseason woes have been well documented by PewterReport.com and other media outlets. It’s rare that a player like Simms, who is coming off a season in which he lost his spleen after the Carolina game in Week 3 last year, actually gets worse as the offseason goes on instead of getting better, but that is exactly what happened. Hopefully, Simms found his groove in the month of July, but for a guy who has fallen from the starting ranks and is hovering between third and fourth on the depth chart, he’s number two on this particular list.
1. DE CHARLES BENNETT Tampa Bay added three defensive ends this offseason, including veteran Kevin Carter, Patrick Chukwurah and first-round draft pick, Gaines Adams, who was Bennett’s teammate at Clemson, while only losing Dewayne White. The problem for Bennett is that Carter, Chukwurah and Adams will all make the team this year. To compound the problem, Bennett, who had been having a good offseason, hurt his knee and will likely start training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. Each day of camp Bennett misses inches him closer to the waiver wire due to Tampa Bay’s depth at defensive end.
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org