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Wide receiver will be one of the more interesting positions to watch in training camp and preseason as far as the Buccaneers are concerned.

Tampa Bay definitely has plenty of question marks surrounding this particular position.

Will Joey Galloway make a full recovery from his shoulder injury? If he does, will the 36-year-old receiver begin to show his age in 2008?

How much juice does veteran WR Ike Hilliard, 32, have left in the tank?

Can Michael Clayton return to his rookie form and re-enter the starting lineup?

Will Maurice Stovall turn in another impressive training camp once he's fully recovered from a forearm injury he suffered near the end of last season, and can he carry that momentum over into the regular season?

Can Paris Warren bounce back from the dislocated ankle he suffered last preseason and make an impact on offense?

Will Antonio Bryant resurrect his career in Tampa Bay or will he follow in the footsteps of David Boston?

Unfortunately, the Bucs will have to wait to have most of these questions answered.

Another player fans have plenty of questions about is rookie WR Dexter Jackson. After watching him a few times in practice, Pewter Report is in the same boat.

The second-round pick out of Appalachian State has been unimpressive in the few times Pewter Report and the rest of the media has had the opportunity to watch the Bucs practice.

Jackson tweaked his hamstring during Tampa Bay's rookie mini-camp. He also had trouble catching the ball in warm-ups on Thursday, and he didn't receive a lot of reps at receiver during team drills.

One can understand why the Bucs traded down in the secound round in April to select Jackson. When Tampa Bay elected to draft Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib over Houston WR Donnie Avery in the first round, Jackson and Florida WR Andre Caldwell were the fastest receivers left on the board when the Bucs selected and the team thought neither would be available by the time Tampa Bay selected in the third round.

Jackson is fast, evidenced by his 4.32 40-yard dash time. However, former Bucs wide receivers Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony were also fast, but that didn't make them successful at the pro level.

Our first observations of Jackson suggest the 5-foot-9, 182-pound receiver is raw and will need a lot of coaching.

As of right now it doesn't even look like Jackson will see the field on offense as a rookie, so the talk about him being Galloway's successor should cease immediately. They're not even in the same league, so they probably shouldn't be mentioned in the same conversation at this point.

Jackson made a name for himself with his impressive performance in Appalachian State's upset win over Michigan, but he wasn't overly productive in college. He caught 110 career passes for 1,846 yards (16.7 avg.) and 17 touchdowns. In Jackson's defense, Appalachian State's offense was run-oriented in nature.

But who was the last star receiver to enter the NFL out of Appalachian State? I'm still trying to figure that out, and what's concerning is the fact that Jackson only started 25 of the 55 games he played at Appalachian State.

The Bucs feel Jackson can immediately upgrade their punt and kickoff return spots as a rookie. Jackson had two punt returns – 86 yards and 68 yards – for touchdowns in one game in 2006, but he averaged less than 18 yards per kickoff return in college.

Players like Chicago's Devin Hester and Baltimore's Yamon Figurs were proven return men when they entered the NFL as first-day picks in recent years.

Jackson needs to make an immediate impact as a return specialist in order to justify Tampa Bay's decision to use a second-round pick on him because as of right now it's hard to see Jackson being used on offense as a rookie.

Is it too early to panic regarding Jackson? Sure. It will be interesting to see where he is and how he progresses in training camp and preseason. Jackson deserves that opportunity.

But given Tampa Bay's track record for drafting wide receivers, the odds seem to be stacked against Jackson, not in his favor.

The Bucs have invested nine draft picks in wide receivers since head coach Jon Gruden began his tenure in Tampa Bay in 2002.

Four of those players – Aaron Lockett, Mark Jones, Paris Warren and J.R. Russell – were seventh-round picks, so none of those can be deemed busts.

But Tampa Bay has also used a first-round, second-round, two third-round and a fifth-round pick in Clayton, Jackson, Stovall, Marquis Walker and Larry Brackins, respectively.

Walker and Brackins are out of the NFL. Jackson has yet to play a down in an NFL regular season game and Clayton and Stovall have combined for 72 receptions for 845 yards and two touchdowns over the past two seasons. To put those numbers in perspective, Clayton hauled 80 receptions as a rookie before his woes began and Galloway became the team's primary receiver.

Clayton appears to be lighter, quicker and more focused this offseason, which has some thinking he might be back to his rookie form. However, after catching one touchdown over the past three seasons some are choosing not to hold their breath.

Young prospects like Taye Biddle, Cortez Hankton and Amari Jackson have shown flashes, but whether they can be consistent remains to be seen.

With Galloway, Hilliard and Stovall still recovering from their respective injuries, the Bucs have expressed interest in free agent wide receivers Eric Moulds, Eddie Kennison and Bryan Gilmore. The team worked out all three veteran receivers on Monday.

But Moulds and Kennison are past their primes, and Gilmore hasn't been that productive in the NFL.

Given Tampa Bay's current situation at wide receiver, if I were Bucs general manager Bruce Allen I'd pick up the phone and call the Buffalo Bills to see what it would take to trade for WR Lee Evans.

Evans, 27, is in the final year of his contract with the Bills. Buffalo currently is attempting to sign him to a long-term deal, but it's unclear how close or far apart the two sides are.

The Bucs still are in need of a Galloway's successor, and Evans could be that guy. He could also make an immediate impact on Tampa Bay's offense this year.

The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Evans has hauled in 233 career passes for 3,727 yards (16.0 avg.) and scored 29 touchdowns since entering the league as a 2004 first-round pick.

Tampa Bay loved Evans when he entered the league out of Wisconsin. Had the Bills not selected Evans with the 13th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft the Buccaneers might have picked him over Clayton two spots later at No. 15 overall.

Tampa Bay would likely have to part ways with at least a first-round pick in order to trade for Evans, but that price could be worth it. The Bucs have $29 million in salary cap room, which means they have the money to sign Evans to the long-term, lucrative deal he's looking for.

League sources tell Pewter Report that the Buccaneers have not talked to the Bills about trading for Evans, but they still have time to do it.


Please note that there will not be a Flynn's Focus next week as Jim Flynn will be on vacation. Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day, Bucs fans.

Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2008 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft this year? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.

WATCH Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds and Jim Flynn on select Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. on Sports Zone with Al Keck and Tom Korun on ABC Action News in Tampa Bay for Bucs game highlights and the latest Bucs news. And for the best local coverage of Tampa Bay sports and Tampa Bay news, check out ABCActionNews.com.

LISTEN to Pewter Report's Jim Flynn each Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. on the Pewter Pulse with Dan Sileo on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal, and catch Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds each Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. on the PewterReport.com Buccaneer Blitz with Steve Duemig on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal.

 

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