It's time for football so lets talk about a few things with our team, the Buccaneers. First of all lets hit on the position battles. The main position battle at camp this season seems to be the middle linebacker spot. Right now it seems that Tyrone McKenzie is the favorite, but Mason Foster isn't going to just watch him do that. Tyrone McKenzie played at USF for 2 years and went to high school in the Tampa area. He is a born-leader and has showed that this offseason. He was one of the people who took charge during the lockout and help out the defense stay in shape and workout. McKenzie already knows how the MLB position works in the Tampa system so he has a leg up on Foster. Also, during the offseason it was reported that McKenzie spent some time with Barrett Ruud to help him. McKenzie is a solid tackler and seems like he would help out with the horrendous run defense we had last season. Unfortunately, McKenzie doesn't exactly have the best coverage skills, which may be better now after spending time with Ruud, and he isn't the fastest guy out there, but that is okay since we do have two faster linebackers in Quincy Black and Geno Hayes. Mason Foster played at Washington in the LOLB position, but because of his build and his abilities he fits in perfectly at the MLB position. He is known for being a solid hard hitting tackler with average cover skills. During training camp I think he will have to impress the coaches alot to win this position from McKenzie. My verdict: McKenzie wins the position, but Foster will be put in during long 3rd down situations.
The next position battle this training camp will be the slot receiver position. Dezmond Briscoe and Sammie Stroughter seem to be the front runners for the position, but Preston Parker is impressing the coaches. At the end of last year Dezmon Briscoe started to show flashes of what kind of receiver he could be. He had 65yards receiving in the last game of the season against the Saints with a touchdown catch. In the last four games he had 93 yards receiving in total with the single touchdown. Briscoe is a quick receiver who has exceptional route running skills. Stroughter has been known for his return skills but that seems to have been taken over by Spurlock. Stroughter was once the starting receiver in Josh Freeman's rookie year and he was phenomenal for being a 7th round pick. He lost the starting job to one of the 2nd round picks(Regis Benn) and a 4th round pick (Mike Williams) who are young talents on the rise. Stroughter was injured for a good part of last season and never got back to the form of his rookie year. Stroughter is a good route runner and can get some yards after the catch, with exceptional hands. A sleeper in this competition is Preston Parker who has been on and off the team, mostly as a return man. So far in training camp he has been very impressive and could turn out to do something great. My verdict: Briscoe beats out Stroughter.
Another position battle will be the right tackle spot between James Lee and Jeremy Trueblood (who was saved by his buddy Davin Joseph). James Lee is the clear front runner because of how he stepped in when Trueblood was injured, and he continued to hold onto that spot last season though Trueblood was ready to play. James Lee showcased last year how he was a better pass blocker than Trueblood, who has struggled with the pass block his whole career. But on the flip side, Trueblood is the better run blocker and can help pull for a halfback toss, but seeming how right now we don't have any fast, outside running backs that attribute might not help him much. Also, the Falcons recently acquired Ray Edwards who will be working against the RT position. My verdict: James Lee holds onto the starting RT position.
This next position is a situational position, but is still very important. The 3rd down RB. Right now, with Cadillac Williams not signed yet we do not have a clear choice. Earnest Graham is the front runner if Caddy isn't signed back. Legarrette Blount isn't exactly the best blocker and he hasn't totally grasped his blocking assignments. Also, for running on 3rd down Graham is the most reliable since Blount was stuffed most times on 3rd and short last year because he tried to bounce around too much and go outside. My verdict: Graham is the obvious choice if Caddy isn't signed.
The Buccaneers are in for a big year, we will see if the philosophy of building through the draft is really working right now, or if it will pan out within the next 2-3 years. As a Bucs fan I'm ecstatic for the season to begin, and i think these preseason games will really help determine who our starters will be in these position battles, especially the MLB.