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Mike Alstott vs. Jerald Sowell
Tampa Bay appears to be set at the fullback position, where Mike Alstott returns for his 11th, and most likely his final, season in the NFL.

Alstott, 32, received a limited amount of opportunities to touch the football in 2006, yet he maintained his knack for finding the end zone, scoring seven touchdowns as the team’s goal line runner.

However, the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Alstott may see even fewer carries this year, especially if Bucs head coach Jon Gruden features more of the “Rocket” backfield, which was supposed to featured quite often last year but wasn’t because of rookie Cadillac Williams’ inconsistency as a blocker and the offense’s need to feature plenty of two-tight end sets.

With Williams spending most of the offseason working on his pass-catching and blocking skills, the “Rocket” backfield, which consists of Williams and Michael Pittman lining up together in the backfield, could be featured more in 2006, which would mean less playing time for Alstott.

Alstott likely still will serve as Tampa Bay’s goal line threat, but even if the Bucs don’t operate out of the “Rocket” backfield more this year, the A-Train’s playing time as a lead blocker could be reduced if Sowell (6-0, 237) earns an active roster spot. Sowell, 32, proved to be a lethal lead blocker for RB Curtis Martin in New York.

Competing behind Alstott and Sowell are Rick Razzano, Carey Davis and Robert Douglas.

Razzano (6-0, 250) was on and off of Tampa Bay’s practice squad in 2005, and he could be a candidate to secure an eight-man practice squad spot again this year as he needs another season to learn Gruden’s system.

Douglas (6-2, 240) is a long shot, but Davis (5-10, 225) is actually a player the Bucs have been quite pleased with this offseason and told Pewter Report to keep an eye on in training camp.

Alstott might be the better pass catcher of the two, but Sowell might be the better lead blocker. Although Alstott is entering his fifth year in Gruden’s system, Sowell is familiar with it from his playing days in New York, where Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett used to run a similar version of the West Coast offense as the offensive coordinator for the Jets.

Even if Sowell performs well, the Bucs might not feel the need to keep him on their active roster, especially if RB Earnest Graham, who can play both tailback and fullback, earns roster spot again this year.

Advantage: Mike Alstott



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