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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scheduled to report to training camp on July 27, which is less than three weeks away.
Which players need to pick it up in training camp in order to make Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster? Pewter Report uses this article to identify 10 players that have a negative buzz heading into camp.
1. DT Anthony Bryant – Several Bucs officials expressed concern and disappointment with Bryant’s weight earlier this offseason, and although his absence was excused, the 2005 sixth-round draft pick from Alabama certainly didn’t help his chances of making the team this year by missing a mandatory mini-camp practice and being held out of a significant percentage of the action in late-June. The 330-pound Bryant needs to report to training camp in shape and show that he’s capable of serving as a solid, high-motor player behind nose tackle Chris Hovan. If he doesn’t, Bryant could find himself on the chopping block in early September.
2. G Toniu Fonoti – The Bucs would love nothing more than for Fonoti to pan out in Tampa Bay. The then-350-pound guard was a force in the running game during his playing days in San Diego. However, Fonoti has struggled with his weight since then and only landed in Tampa Bay after he failed a physical with the Oakland Raiders. Although he was 400 pounds when he signed with the Bucs, Fonoti dropped about 30 pounds and appeared poised to push Dan Buenning for the starting left guard job. That was until Tampa Bay’s mandatory three-day mini-camp when Fonoti failed to show up the first day. At the time, that absence was unexcused, and Pewter Report has yet to confirm the reason for Fonoti’s missed practice. However, even if it was excused, team sources told Pewter Report that Fonoti had gained back about 10 pounds, which wasn’t good. The Bucs have some real concerns about Fonoti surviving hot and humid Orlando if he’s overweight. But before they worry about his weight, the Bucs must first concern themselves with whether Fonoti will show up.
3. RB Andre Hall – Although he might make significant strides between Tampa Bay’s mandatory mini-camp in late-June and training camp, Bucs rookie running back Andre Hall will find himself in a world of trouble if he can’t get a better grasp of head coach Jon Gruden’s lengthy and wordy playbook. An undrafted free agent out of USF, Hall was projected by some scouts to be drafted as high as the third round, but he wasn’t too impressive at One Buc Place this offseason, mostly due to his inability to digest the playbook. Some of his problems may stem from the fact that he wasn’t drafted. Hall made it clear when he joined the Bucs that he had something to prove, but he might have been pressing to make plays too much this offseason. Hall was a tremendous playmaker for the USF Bulls, and he’ll need to find a way to make more plays – and learn them – if he’s going to make the roster or the practice squad for that matter.
4. WR Mark Jones – Jones has shown the ability to return punts, but the Bucs need him to become a significant contributor in other areas, particularly on offense, this season. Jones has excellent acceleration, but his 5-foot-9 frame often times prevents him from getting separation at the line of scrimmage against more physical cornerbacks. If he had solidified both the punt and kick return jobs last year, Jones probably would be a safe bet to make the team, even with players like Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, Ike Hilliard, Maurice Stovall and David Boston competing against him. However, Jones isn’t an effective kick returner and the Bucs feel Hilliard is a capable punt returner, so if Jones can’t show the ability to make more plays on offense, he might find himself out of a roster spot this year.
5. G Davin Joseph – Tampa Bay 2006 first-round draft pick might not find himself in the starting lineup on opening day. He certainly won’t be there on the first day of training camp thanks to Jeb Terry’s impressive play this offseason. The Bucs have been extremely pleased with how well Terry has fared at the right guard spot this offseason. In fact, the team is contemplating moving last year’s starting right guard, Sean Mahan, over to center to compete with John Wade so that Terry and Joseph can battle it out at right guard in camp. Joseph hasn’t come along as fast as the team would have liked, but if Terry wins the starting job in camp, it won’t be by default. However, Joseph must improve his play in a hurry if he wants to avoid being the third-string right guard behind Terry and Mahan.
6. DT Anthony McFarland – He isn’t in danger of losing his roster spot, but McFarland might have to become more of a pass-rushing threat at the under tackle position if he wants to see a significant amount of playing time this year. “Booger” recorded just two sacks last season and has just 20 quarterback takedowns during his seven-year career. McFarland played an integral role in helping Tampa Bay shore up its run defense last season, but he needs to start getting after the quarterback more often. Otherwise, DT Ellis Wyms, who notched two quarterback takedowns in 2005 and has 9.5 sacks in five seasons with the Bucs, could see a significant amount of action on pass-rushing downs.
7. CBs James Patrick and Blue Adams – With Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Juran Bolden assured active roster spots this season, the Bucs probably will keep just two more cornerbacks. Fourth-round pick Alan Zemaitis likely will make the team as he’s got a lot of upside and is quite familiar with the Tampa 2 defensive system from his playing days with Penn State. Seventh-round pick Justin Phinisee will compete with Torrie Cox, Patrick and Adams for what will likely be the final available roster spot. Given Cox’s off-the-field problems from the past few years, Patrick, Adams and Phinisee appear to have an edge over him. Although they’re high on Patrick, the Bucs were impressed with Adams’ ability to play on special teams, where he notched 13 tackles last year. Patrick still is a candidate for the practice squad. That said, Phinisee will put the roster spots of Patrick and Adams in danger if he can make it as a kick and/or punt returner.
8. LS Boone Stutz – The Bucs are searching for long snapper Dave Moore’s successor, and they thought they might have found him when they signed Stutz, an undrafted free agent, earlier in the offseason. But that was before they actually saw him line up at tight end and long snap against the pros. Stutz in one hell of a long snapper, but he needs to prove he can be more physical and protect against the big-bodied players in the NFL. That was an issue during workouts this offseason. It’s probably safe to say that Stutz will be a one-dimensional player as he struggled mightily at tight end and was seen getting yelled at by Bucs head coach Jon Gruden quite often during the team’s mandatory mini-camp in late-June. With Tampa Bay needing to release several players between now and the start of training camp in order to make room on its offseason roster for its draft picks, Stutz could be in danger of being released before camp even starts.
9. QB Tim Rattay – Rattay’s chances of making Tampa Bay’s active roster this season increased dramatically when QB Luke McCown went down in June with a season-threatening knee injury that required surgery. But Rattay can’t get too comfortable since the Bucs recently signed veteran QB Jay Fiedler, who is coming off of shoulder surgery but is a quick study. The Bucs haven’t had a lot to say about Rattay – good or bad – this offseason, and the signing of Fiedler reinforces the team’s uneasiness regarding Rattay. Several sources insist that Rattay isn’t a great practice player but shows up in games. If that’s true, Rattay will really have to play well in the Bucs’ four preseason games in order to show he’s worthy of backing up starter Chris Simms this year. Otherwise, the Bucs could decide to part ways with Rattay and his $1.2 million base salary, and keep Fiedler.
10. T Torrin Tucker – The Bucs signed the former Cowboy to a $1.2 million base salary this year because of his versatility, but Tucker didn’t get off to a great start this offseason. At Tampa Bay’s mandatory mini-camp, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden scolded Tucker on several occasions, and he looked lackadaisical, and like a backup. Tucker hasn’t shown any signs of being able to push left tackle Anthony Davis or right tackle Kenyatta Walker for their starting jobs, and with a $1.2 million base salary in 2006, Tucker could be in danger of losing his roster spot all together if he can’t play better than he did this offseason.
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