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Jameel Cook vs. Rick Razanno
Tampa Bay currently has three fullbacks on its offseason roster, and that’s the amount the Bucs will likely bring to training camp later this month.

With Bucs head coach Jon Gruden looking to run more two-halfbacks sets this season, the fullbacks may not see the football field much in 2005, and when they do, Mike Alstott, who is entering his 10th and what will likely be his final season with the Bucs, will surely get on the field ahead of rookie Rick Razzano and Jameel Cook since he’s scheduled to earn $1.5 million and is more experienced than those two players combined.

The 6-foot-1, 248-pound Alstott’s best playing days are behind him, but the Bucs feel he can still be an adequate lead blocker in the running game while occasionally serving as a receiving threat in the flats. Although he’s considered a threat in short-yardage and goal-line situations, those types of carries may not go to him. Instead, they could go to first-round pick Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who impressed Tampa Bay’s scouts with his playmaking ability in those situations when he played at Auburn.

Alstott carried the ball 67 times, which was lowest of his career since his rookie season, via the ground game in 2004, and he probably will get a similar amount of touches in 2005.

The real training camp battle at the fullback position will take place between Razzano and Cook, both of whom will be fighting for one available roster spot since the Bucs will probably only keep two fullbacks along with possibly four halfbacks on their 53-man active roster.

A seventh-round pick out of Ole Miss, Razzano (6-0, 250) doesn’t have the NFL playing experience or familiarity with Gruden’s playbook that Cook, who is entering his fifth season in Tampa Bay, has. However, the Bucs are intrigued by Razzano’s potential. He can effectively lead block and showed soft hands in college, catching 41 career passes for 312 yards and one touchdown for the Rebels. Razzano’s biggest challenge right now is trying to digest Gruden’s playbook.

Cook (5-10, 237) also has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a necessity for any back playing in Gruden’s offense. He caught seven passes last season and has a career total of 48. But the Bucs would like to see Cook do more with the football once he’s hauled it in. He’s averaged just 6.9 yards per reception, and his lead-blocking skills have been average.

The fullback that makes the biggest impact on special teams for Tampa Bay this season will likely win this battle. The fact that Razzano played under Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia and tight ends coach/assistant special teams coach Ron Middleton at Ole Miss suggests Razzano, who excelled on special teams as a Rebel, makes it interesting in what should be a very competitive camp battle. Cook has been a staple on special teams over the last couple of years and will not go down without a fight.

ADVANTAGE: Rick Razzano


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