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THE PICK TO CLICK vs. MIAMI In this new pre-game feature, the PewterReport.com editorial staff offers its prediction as to which Tampa Bay player will star in the upcoming game. Which Tampa Bay Buccaneer can be expected to shine on Saturday night in Miami as the Pewter Pirates open the preseason against the Dolphins?
CB ELBERT MACK – Pewter Report publisher Scott Reynolds While Tampa Bay is anxious to see first-round draft pick Aqib Talib in action at Miami, the Buccaneers want to get a long look at their “other” rookie cornerback in the preseason opener. Mack is expected to get significant playing time in the fourth quarter and could even see action in the third quarter. The Dolphins will likely target Mack because of his size (5-foot-10, 168 pounds), but don’t be surprised if the undrafted rookie winds up with a couple of pass breakups and maybe an interception or two. That’s what E-Mack has been doing on a regular basis in training camp. When Tampa Bay defensive backs coach Raheem Morris went to Troy to scout cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who wound up being a first-round pick, he said, “Forget McKelvin. Who the heck is this guy?” when talking about Mack, who led the NCAA in interceptions with eight last year and had 14 total picks in his college career (including four at Butler County Community College).
RB CLIFTON SMITH – Pewter Report editor-in-chief Jim Flynn You can’t help but pick one of Tampa Bay’s running backs for this game. Miami’s defense ranked dead last (32nd) against the run in 2007, and the loss of defensive end Jason Taylor and the presence of aging linebacker Joey Porter and rookie defensive end Phillip Merling shouldn’t strike fear into the hearts of the Buccaneers, who are determined to run the ball with authority behind their up-and-coming offensive line this year. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Smith has been a pleasant surprise in training camp and should see quite a bit of action seeing as this is the first preseason game for the Bucs and the team’s starter likely will play sparingly. Tampa Bay’s backup running backs have traditionally played well in preseason (see Earnest Graham, Kenneth Darby, Derek Watson, etc.). I see no reason why Tampa Bay’s rookie running back won’t find success running the ball against Miami’s 3-4 defensive scheme on Saturday night. Look for Smith to also get some reps at either kick returner or punt returner.
RB MICHAEL BENNETT – Pewter Report Bucs beat writer Charlie Campbell In the first preseason game veteran running back Warrick Dunn will see hardly any action. That will be the same for starter Earnest Graham. The Bucs will want to avoid an injury to either of the backs that they are counting on to be a big part of their offense. Bennett should get a good amount of work with the first- and second-team offense. With his speed, it would not be surprising to this Pewter Reporter to see Bennett break off a few big runs. He has been doing that in training camp and going against some non-starters in the preseason games will only make those big runs more likely. Bennett and running back Clifton Smith will also get more reps if fellow backup Kenneth Darby is unable to play. Darby sat out the last day of practice with an undisclosed injury. The Bucs run a lot in preseason games and will also use their backs as receivers and as checkdown options. Bennett and Smith look to be the workhorses in this game, and Bennett will benefit by running behind the first- and second-team offensive line.
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LISTEN to Pewter Report's Jim Flynn each Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. during football season on the Pewter Pulse with Dan Sileo on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal, and catch Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds each Wednesday afternoon during football season at 5:00 p.m. on the PewterReport.com Buccaneer Blitz with Steve Duemig on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal.