Which five Bucs have the most to gain — and the most to lose — at training camp? Bucsblitz.com has the scoop for you in this exclusive analysis Just click here to find out who made the list.
CORNERBACKS: Starters -- LCB Phillip Buchanon, SS Jermaine Phillips, FS Tanard Jackson, RCB Ronde Barber. Backups -- S Sabby Piscitelli, CB/S Eugene Wilson, CB Aqib Talib, DB Sammy Davis, DB Torrie Cox, FS Will Allen.
Barber continues to play at a level of sustained excellence that few corners can match. It goes largely unnoticed, though, because of the Bucs’ defensive system. But Barber came through with a couple of big plays last year that remind us of just how good he is. He’ll continue to provide steady play on the right side and move inside on passing downs.
Buchanon had perhaps his best season last year, flashing his talent for making open-field plays in coverage and improved tackling. Expect that to continue, as Buchanon is playing for a new contract — either here in or Tampa Bay — in 2009.
Phillips bounced back from a frightful 2007 to approach a John Lynch-like level of play, doling out big hits and providing above-average coverage. The trick is to do it consistently, something he has not done. The Bucs will give Piscitelli some playing time in training camp and preseason, and the youngster’s development could determine whether Phillips gets a new deal in 2009. Piscitelli loves to hit, but the Bucs also need consistent coverage at the position.
Jackson exceeded expectations a year ago, proving he could hit as well as he could cover. The Bucs hope to see improvement, not regression, as Jackson starts his second year.
Wilson and Talib will duke it out for nickel corner work. Talib is seen as the corner of the future as a first-round pick. He’s a talented hitter who provides solid coverage, but there’s a learning curve to the NFL. Wilson has earned heavy praise during the offseason and his steady reputation could steal playing time from Talib early. Davis is back after a season as a valuable backup, but he’ll have to improve his level of play to stick around. Same goes for Cox, who is coming off an injury and has never fulfilled his potential.
Allen’s would seem a lock to make the roster as Jackson’s backup. He’s also a valuable special teams performer.
They were the nine biggest stories of the offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How did the Bucs do in the magnifying glass of hindsight? Did they do the right things to attack their team needs and keep the team on the winning track? Matthew Postins of bucsblitz.com examines those storylines and their impact on the upcoming season in his exclusive group of articles:
Vol. 1 — the coaching staff.
Vol. 2 — the secondary’s future.
Vol. 3 — is Jovan Haye a future star?
Vol. 4 — the precarious state at running back.
Vol. 5 — who will eventually replace Joey Galloway?
Vol. 6 — Jon Gruden’s contract extension.
Vol. 7 — What should the Bucs do at center?
Vol. 8 — re-signing a key tight end.
Vol. 9 — assessing the return game.
We’re gearing up for training camp at Bucsblitz.com. Today we’ve posted our first Mailbag feature, with answers to questions on Greg White, Jeff Garcia and a potential breakout player. Just click here to check it out. Part 2 will include an answer on Brett Favre and be published later this week.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla.