Camp Confidential: Most hands on Bucs' deck seem very familiar
Even the new faces in Tampa are old: Hello again, Warrick Dunn. The Bucs changed very little from a team good enough to win the NFC South, Pat Yasinskas writes.
1. The Bucs didn't have a lot of playmakers on offense last year. Where will the big plays come from this year?Galloway will turn 37 in November, but he hasn't shown many signs of slowing down. He's coming off a season in which he caught 57 passes for 1,014 yards and six touchdowns, and he's likely to remain the main target in the passing game. But the Bucs need contributions from elsewhere if they're going to make a return trip to the playoffs. Ike Hilliard, the other starting wideout in 2007, is a dependable veteran, but coach Jon Gruden has been critical of the rest of the receiving corps during camp. Gruden wants Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton -- a pair of reclamation projects -- to play big roles. Bryant, who was out of the NFL last season, had some flashes in training camp and could challenge Hilliard for a starting job as the season goes on. 2. With Williams likely out for at least part of the season, who's going to run the ball?
Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham has come a long way to become a key part of the attack.
• Heckert: $10M the hard way
The Bucs are stronger in the backfield than they have been since Williams tore his patellar tendon early last season. Earnest Graham ended up as the feature back as last season went on, and he rushed for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns. Graham likely will be the starter, but the Bucs have plenty of depth and Gruden is likely to spread the workload among Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett.Dunn, who started his career in Tampa Bay before a stint in Atlanta, is back with a coach who never wanted him to leave. Dunn's ability as a pass-catcher fits perfectly into Gruden's offense, and he still has enough speed to get some carries. 3. What happens to this defense if age suddenly catches up with Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Kevin Carter? Monte Kiffin's defense is definitely in transition, but the Bucs have a nice mix of old and young. Defensive end Gaines Adams, free safety Tanard Jackson and cornerback Aqib Talib are players the Bucs have drafted in recent years to keep this defense stocked for the long term. Adams started slowly last season but finished with six sacks, and the Bucs believe he could be on the verge of a breakout year. Guys such as linebackers Cato June and Barrett Ruud and defensive tackle Chris Hovan still are in their primes and will be counted on to help bridge the generation gap.
The Bucs might have gotten lucky when they brought in tight end John Gilmore. He had only 21 career catches in four seasons with Chicago. But the Bucs have been pleasantly surprised by Gilmore's speed and pass-catching ability. He moves almost as well as starter Alex Smith. Gilmore was brought in to be a blocking specialist, but he could end up pushing Smith for playing time.
Newcomer to watch
The Bucs paid big money to center Faine in free agency, and they expect a big return on their investment. They view Faine as a bigger, more physical version of Jeff Christy, who was with the team for its Super Bowl run. The position has been a problem spot since Christy left, but Faine should fix that. He's very solid technically and has the ability to move, which will allow Gruden's offense to use trap plays and screen passes better.
The Bucs paid defensive end Marques Douglas decent money, but he was outplayed in camp by Jimmy Wilkerson. Carter and Adams are the starters, but Wilkerson and Greg White have a chance at significant playing time. Third-round pick Jeremy Zuttah, a center from Rutgers, had the best camp of any Tampa Bay rookie. The Bucs believe Zuttah is ready to be Faine's backup, and that will allow Dan Buenning to focus on playing guard and give the middle of the line plenty of depth. The Bucs saw second-round pick Dexter Jackson as being very similar to Carolina's Steve Smith, who was drafted as a return man and, despite a lack of size, turned into an elite wide receiver. But there haven't been many signs that Jackson is going to turn out like Smith. He doesn't look ready to contribute on offense, which wasn't totally unexpected. But Jackson also hasn't looked sharp on returns. Rookie return man Clifton Smith has outperformed Jackson so far.
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Belichick says Patriots 'followed every rule'
- NFL warns Seahawks about Lynch gesture
- NFLPA: Players shouldn't talk 'Deflategate'
- NFL conducts 40 interviews into 'Deflategate'
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
TRAINING CAMP 2008
Commentary/featuresWarner proves he has future
The Cardinals gave Kurt Warner the chance to compete with Matt Leinart for the starting spot, and the 37-year-old quarterback made the most of the opportunity. John Clayton
Pennington's learning curve
It seemed the Jets could not help Chad Pennington pack his bags fast enough. Now the most experienced QB on the Dolphins, he's relishing the chance to excel again.
• Kreidler: Future still promising for 49ers' Smith
• Clayton: Injuries impact preseason
• Seifert: A new approach in Detroit
• Smith: Favre drama a reality check for McNabb
• Kuharsky: Titans focused on defense
• Sando: Running key for Holmgren's swan song
• Mosley: Giants hope history teaches well
• Garber: Coughlin distances from SB win
• Williamson: Chiefs engergized by youth
• Chadiha: O-line might hold real keys for Jets
• Wickersham: Three tips for Favre
• Mosley: Giants done with celebrating
• Naylor: Canadian divide on NFL invasion
• Graham: Sleeper Bills | Blog: Yo, Canada
• Seifert: For a change, no distractions for Vikes
• Mosley: McNabb confident Eagles among elite
• Kuharsky: Garrard taking control
• Mosley: Eagles poised to return to prominence
• Clayton: Young on his way to elite status
• Kuharsky: Garrard ready to lead Jags
• Chadiha: Delhomme determined to seize moment
• Yasinskas: Smith's approach suits Falcons
• Mosley: Zorn's coaching desire finally fulfilled
• Williamson: Young Raiders share Kiffin's hunger
• Graham: Jets wiping slate clean
• Chadiha: Turner ready to lead Falcons
• Clayton: Vikings firmly in Jackson's corner
• Walker: Tough schedule awaits Steelers in 2008
• Mosley: Favre is QB turned ringmaster
• Clayton: 5 reasons Favre would start for Pack
• Graham: Patriots not dwelling on past
• Sando: Rams optimistic despite questions
• Williamson: Shanahan points to playoffs
• Walker: Bengals look to move past chaos
• Yasinskas: Delhomme, Peppers must step up
NFL blog network• NFL Nation blog
• AFC: North | South | East | West
• NFC: North | South | East | West
• Contact our bloggers
Camp Confidential training camp tourA breakdown of our annual camp tour:
• Wednesday, July 30: Chargers, Cowboys
• Thursday, July 31: Texans, 49ers
• Friday, Aug. 1: Patriots
• Saturday, Aug. 2: Bengals, Panthers
• Sunday, Aug. 3: Broncos
• Monday, Aug. 4: Rams
• Tuesday, Aug. 5: Steelers
• Wednesday, Aug. 6: Jets
• Thursday, Aug. 7: Raiders | Redskins
• Friday, Aug. 8: Falcons
• Saturday, Aug. 9: Jaguars
• Tuesday, Aug. 12: Eagles | Vikings
• Wednesday, Aug. 13: Bills
• Thursday, Aug. 14: Chiefs
• Friday, Aug. 15: Giants | Seahawks
• Saturday, Aug. 16: Bucs | Lions
• Sunday, Aug. 17: Browns
• Monday, Aug. 18: Titans
Video• NFL Insiders on Bills, Broncos, more
• Rachel Nichols on Favre, Jets
• NFL Live dissects ESPN.com power rankings
Audio• Podcast: Biggest questions
Scouts Inc.• Camp outlook: AFC Q&A on X's and O's
• Camp outlook: NFC Q&A on X's and O's
• Notable quarterback battles