Check with Bucsblitz.com throughout training camp for the best coverage of the top competitions and stories of camp. Periodically, we'll give you the chance to read what players have to say about camp, in their own words. Unfiltered and unedited, it's your chance to read what the players have to say in their most unguarded moments. Click on the player's name below to get exclusive content:
For those of you warming up to tell the Bucs "I told you so" regarding WR Antonio Bryant, the line starts to the left behind me. Giving $9 million to a guy who hasn't even had two productive NFL seasons in a row was just foolish. But given their options this offseason, did they even have a choice? Still, one could have seen this coming, given Bryant's history.
You should be worried about P Josh Bidwell. In fact, start showing concern for the entire kicking game. Bidwell has kicked better than his career average each of the last four years in Tampa Bay, and he went to the Pro Bowl one of those years. Dirk Johnson is probably an adequate replacement. But he's not Bidwell. This follows PK Matt Bryant's hamstring injury. The Bucs face the real possibility of having a kicker and punter other than these two for the first time since 2005. That should worry you.
I like the idea of giving QBs Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich an opportunity to start one of the first two preseason games, as outlined by GM Mark Dominik. The Bucs shouldn't give either one of these guys an excuse at the end of the preseason to say they didn't get a fair shake. My money is still on McCown, though Leftwich has ushered in an era of good feelings about his talent so far in camp.
Along with the kickers and Bryant, WR Michael Clayton and LB Angelo Crowell have been ruled out for Saturday's game with Tennessee. Do I have to get on my Clayton soap box again? Why is this guy even still on this team? I'm just baffled as to why this team re-signed a guy who hasn't even come close to performing like a first-round pick since his rookie season. I mean not even close. At least we'll get to see a lot of Maurice Stovall, Dexter Jackson and Sammie Stroughter. All of this just underscores the complete lack of faith I have in this group of wide receivers. When Cortez Hankton starts to sound appealing, one should be worried.
I was participating in a fantasy football mock draft recently and I espoused the theory that Earnest Graham was a good late-round value because he will get most of the goal-line touches, and has gotten them for most of the last two years. One of the drafters basically said that the only reason Graham got those touches was due to injuries (2007) and the presence of Warrick Dunn (2008). He said he thought Ward was doing to have a stud-type year. I disagree. Graham and Ward are basically the same type of back (they weigh 228 and 225 pounds, respectively). Additionally, Graham had 14 touchdowns in 2007-08 and Ward only had five. I think Graham is a tougher runner than Ward and, ultimately, inside the 5, it will be Graham who gets the touches that lead to touchdowns, and not Ward. So if you're in a scoring-only league, take note.
The Eagles might be the perfect place for Michael Vick. First of all, there's no pressure to perform immediately, since QB Donovan McNabb is firmly entrenched as the starter. Second, head coach Andy Reid is a creative offensive coach who I think can find different ways to use Vick's talent. I just wish there was a little less trouble to get into in Philly.
Three players intrigue me entering Saturday's preseason game:
LB Quincy Black. The potential starter on the strong side gets his first real chance in a game to solidify that standing. The competition I expected from Angelo Crowell hasn't materialized. Black will probably play close to a half and if he plays well the job is his to lose from there on.
WR Dexter Jackson. This guy was a palpable disappointment last year. It was obvious the Bucs reached on this guy, and the one thing they though he could deliver last year – returns – never came about. Clifton Smith won't return kicks Saturday, which means Jackson and Stroughter will combine for return duties. Jackson will play a lot on Saturday, and he needs a little redemption. And, frankly, the Bucs need him to deliver too, or did you miss what a similarly-built DeSean Jackson did for Philly last year. Weren't the Bucs interested in him, too? Yeah, that's right, they were.
WLB Jermaine Phillips. It's not just that Phillips is moving from safety to weak-side linebacker, where his hard-nosed hitting and pursuit might be a good match. It's the fact that he's replacing the legend, Derrick Brooks. So there's no pressure there.
On a related note, I don't understand why the Saints are dragging their feet on signing Brooks. Defensive coordinator Gregg Robinson does a great job of using the 4-3 defense to force turnovers and rush the quarterback. Lord knows Brooks is good at forcing turnovers. Plus, with Mark Simoneau going under the knife, they have a need. It's not like Brooks will break the bank and it's not like the Saints don't have the money. Don't you think Brooks would love two shots at his old team, you know, the one that released him after more than a decade of All-Pro worthy service? That in itself should be enough reason for the Saints to get this done.
The biggest story out of the first week of camp was head coach Raheem Morris' "calling out" of TE Kellen Winslow. You mean, when Morris told the media that Winslow needed to stop pouting when he dropped a ball, start acting like a leader and stop falling back on the bad habits he started in Cleveland? Wow, you know what, now that I think about it, Morris did call Winslow out. He just did it in the most polite way possible. Wonder if this is starting to dawn on Winslow the way it's dawning on me?
For some inexplicable reason, I watched the Titans-Bills game last Sunday. Actually, I watched it so I could see the old Oilers throwback uniforms of the 1960s (great stuff). The Titans didn't look as if they missed a beat from last year. I know preseason results don't matter much, but I expect Tennessee's first-string offense to beat Tampa Bay's first-string defense, and vice versa. This won't be much of a game, really. The Titans will take an early lead and hang on, as their second-stringers aren't bad, either. I get the feeling there won't be a lot of great headlines to talk about on Sunday.