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Pewter Report is in the process of putting together its next magazine – the Season Kickoff issue, which will be printed and mailed later this month.
In the meantime, we will continue to feed analysis and information to Bucs fans as we get it. In addition to Charlie Campbell's PI Quick Hits, here are some more tidbits that will hopefully hold fans over as they prepare to watch Tampa Bay host the New England Patriots at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night.
ZUTTAH WASN'T JUST DRAFTED FOR DEPTH
Many were of the opinion that when the Buccaneers drafted offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah, the team had depth in mind.
The Bucs had, after all, already invested first- and second-round draft picks in guards Davin Joseph and Arron Sears in 2006 and 2007, respectively. They also made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in free agency and appeared to be set at the tackle positions with Jeremy Trueblood, Donald Penn and Luke Petitgout in the fold.
Where will Zuttah fit in along Tampa Bay's offensive line? That's the question Bucs fans and the media asked when Zuttah was drafted by the Bucs.
The 6-foot-4, 303-pound Zuttah played both tackle spots and left guard in 44 games (40 starts) at Rutgers. His experience, production and athleticism prompted the Bucs to select Zuttah in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
The Bucs played Zuttah at center and both guard positions during training camp, and he performed quite well. In fact, Bucs coaches and players were raving about Zuttah throughout training camp.
When Tampa Bay drafted Zuttah, it did have depth in mind, but it also was thinking about competition. The Bucs buy into the notion that competition brings out the best in everyone, and that's what they were hoping would take place with Zuttah competing against the likes of Joseph, Sears and Dan Buenning.
Buenning has played well at center and appears to be poised to earn the backup spot behind Faine this year. Joseph and Sears likely will be Tampa Bay's starting right and left guards, respectively.
However, should he continue to play as well as he has during the early stages of his rookie campaign, Zuttah could be poised to push his way into the starting lineup sometime soon down the road, and his landing spot could be the right guard position, where the Bucs have a close eye on Joseph this season.
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Joseph has started 28 of the 29 regular season games he's played in since entering the league in '06.
Joseph is considered an excellent run blocker and was one of the main reasons why running back Earnest Graham managed to rush for 898 yards (4.0 avg.) and 10 touchdowns in place of injured RBs Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman last year. As a result, Tampa Bay's ground game ranked 11th in the league, which was the highest it had ever finished a season ranked under head coach Jon Gruden.
But Joseph has been fairly inconsistent in pass protection, which is an area he spent a great amount of time attempting to improve during the offseason.
Should Joseph, who is under contract with Tampa Bay through the 2010 season, continue to struggle in pass protection in 2008, the Bucs could consider making a change along their offensive line in 2009, which could call for Zuttah to replace Joseph in the starting lineup.
PETITGOUT'S STATUS STILL UNKNOWN
Tampa Bay left tackle Luke Petitgout was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp due to a partially torn ACL he suffered in Week 4 of the 2007 regular season.
Petitgout, 32, missed a significant amount of practice time in training camp last year due to a back ailment. However, he still started the first four games of the season and played quite well before suffering the season-ending knee injury vs. the Panthers.
It's unclear whether Petitgout will be ready for the start of the regular season, but it's unlikely that the Bucs will release him since they paid him a $1.75 million roster bonus and a deferred signing bonus payment of $1 million this offseason. It's hard to imagine the Bucs parting ways with a player that they already invested $2.75 million in this year.
For inquiring minds that want to know, Petitgout is scheduled to have a $4.9 million salary cap value in 2008. The Bucs, who currently are $27 million under the cap, could create approximately $2.5 million in cap room by releasing Petitgout as opposed to placing him on the PUP list, a move that would buy he and the Bucs six more weeks of rehab time.
The Bucs would like to have Petitgout back in action and starting at left tackle as some felt there was a substantial drop off in play from Petitgout to Donald Penn, who performed admirably in Petitgout's place last year and will start at left tackle if Petitgout is not healthy enough to go in 2008.
KEEP AN EYE ON ARIZONA, BUFFALO
It should be interesting to see how Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway's groin injury turns out.
Galloway missed Tampa Bay's entire training camp with a groin injury. It is believed that the Bucs have been taking it slow with Galloway to make sure he is fully healthy during the regular season. But until he gets back on the football field, there is cause for concern as Galloway has been Tampa Bay's most explosive and productive weapon under head coach Jon Gruden, and the offense clearly isn't the same without him (see Bucs' playoff game vs. the Giants).
The Bucs took a hard look at several wide receivers during free agency, but passed on most of them. They signed Antonio Bryant, who was out of the league in 2007, and drafted Dexter Jackson, who is raw at receiver but is expected to make an immediate impact as a return specialist for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen is always open to trade possibilities, but it doesn't sound like the Bucs will be making one before the regular seasons starts.
But don't rule out the possibility of the Bucs making a trade sometime during the regular season. Allen is notorious for wheeling and dealing around the NFL trade deadline, which is Week 6.
Last season, Allen traded a 2008 sixth-round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for running back Michael Bennett and a 2009 seventh-round pick.
In 2006, Allen traded defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2007 second-round pick that was later used on safety Sabby Piscitelli.
Allen traded a sixth-round selection to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for quarterback Tim Rattay in 2005.
In 2004, which was his first year as Tampa Bay's general manager, Allen shipped wide receiver Keenan McCardell out to San Diego in exchange for a third- and fifth-round draft pick.
That's four straight years of making a trade deadline deal for Allen, so no one should be surprised if the streak continues this year.
Now, what type of deal the Bucs attempt to pull the trigger on around the trade deadline will depend on how the team initially fares. If Tampa Bay starts the season 0-4 as it did in 2006, look for Allen to unload some players that might have value to other teams that still are in playoff contention.
However, if the Bucs start the season strong and feel they're a playmaker away from making a legitimate push at the Super Bowl, which is being played in Tampa this season, Allen could bring a player in via a trade.
Galloway will turn 37 in November, and Michael Clayton and Bryant are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next year. That said, the Bucs will have their eye on a few wide receivers, including Arizona's Anquan Boldin and Buffalo's Lee Evans.
Boldin wants out of Arizona and Evans is scheduled to become a free agent next year. The Bills and Evans' agent have been talking about a contract extension, but those negotiations have been ongoing for months.
Should either Arizona or Buffalo struggle early in '08, they could be more likely to part ways with Boldin and Evans, respectively, and you can bet the Bucs would be interested in possibly trading for one of them.
JOHNSON HEADED TO PRACTICE SQUAD?
The Bucs invested a fifth-round pick in quarterback Josh Johnson in April, but he might not make it to the regular season.
Johnson has received a limited amount of work in the offseason and training camp. He threw just one pass in Tampa Bay's preseason opener vs. Miami, completing it for 15 yards.
The Bucs knew Johnson, a former Div. I-AA superstar, was a project when they selected him, and that's the way they're treating him.
We're still attempting to get a copy of Johnson's rookie contract, but from what we understand the Bucs were creative in terms of structuring the deal so that it would make it difficult for other teams to claim him off of waivers. If that's true, the Bucs clearly are planning on trying to sneak Johnson onto their eight-man practice squad at some point this year. That time could come after tight end Jerramy Stevens' two-game suspension ends.
Don't look for Johnson to get a lot of playing time in any of Tampa Bay's remaining preseason games as the last thing the Bucs want to do is have him go out and perform well enough to convince another team to use a 53-man roster spot on him.
Although they could start the season with four quarterbacks on their active roster, odds are Johnson is headed to the practice squad while Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese and Luke McCown serve as the signal callers on the team's 53-man roster for the entire season.
The Bucs drafted Sabby Piscitelli to be their starting strong safety. It is just a matter of when he will get his opportunity.
Bucs starting SS Jermaine Phillips in is in the final year of his contract, but he's coming off of an impressive campaign in which he led the team in interceptions with four. Tampa Bay's pass defense also ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL last year.
Piscitelli's rookie campaign ended prematurely when he broke his leg early in the regular season, but he's come back strong. Piscitelli has showcased his athleticism and playmaking ability in training camp.
Although he is unlikely to beat out Phillips for the starting job, don't be surprised if Piscitelli is worked into a rotation at safety during some games in the regular season.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has been known to do just that with players in the past. He gave Barrett Ruud some reps behind starting middle linebacker Shelton Quarles. Former Bucs LB Nate Webster did the same thing with former Tampa Bay LB Jamie Duncan.
Seeing Piscitelli play could accomplish several things. The Bucs would like to see what they have in Piscitelli and judge whether he's ready to take over as a starter next year given Phillips' contract situation. Having Piscitelli in the starting lineup could also help generate more turnovers, which is something the Bucs defense stressed all offseason and training camp.
There's no guarantee this scenario will play out, but Phillips seems to be prepared for it.
"I'm just looking at how Sabby has grown. He's earned the trust of the coaching staff to get playing time out there," Phillips told Pewter Report in an interview for the upcoming Pewter Report Conversation, which will be published in the Season Kickoff issue. "That being said, I don't think I'll be around here forever. I'd be a fool to think that. I know the talent that we have in Sabby and Tanard [Jackson], and I think we're going to see some of that this year. I think Tanard and I are a great duo, and I know they'll be a great duo. They came into this league together and they have a lot to offer. They have a great amount of potential in both for them. In the years to come I think they'll definitely be the face of the franchise when it's all said and done."
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