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The Decline of Sammie Stroughter

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Stroughter was one of the few bright spots of the 2009 season. The 7th-round pick was versatile, tenacious, had a good feel for space and seemed to have a good connection with Josh Freeman. He was one of the few wide receivers on the roster the Bucs could count on, and he seemed to be ready to break out in 2010. His numbers had been lackluster in 2009 despite his promising play, but surely this would change in 2009, right? Instead, Stroughter's numbers dropped from an already low 31 catches for 334 yards to 24 catches for 239 yards. While Stroughter was injured and missed 4 games in 2010, he only played one more game in 2009. So what happened?

It started when Maurice Stovall got injured before the season. That meant Stroughter was pushed into service as the starting flanker, and it turned out Stroughter couldn't thrive in that role. That's not surprising, Stroughter's strengths are a feel for zone coverage and his quickness, not his speed, physical stature or ability to seperate on deeper routes. Stroughter is a slot receiver first and foremost, and not someone who can thrive on the outside. So when the Bucs moved him there, they only hurt him as he wasn't able to work the slot as much. 

Then he got injured, missing the Week 9 and 10 games and playing hurt after that. In the end he also missed the last two games of the season. But Stroughter wasn't a large part of the game plan at any point during the season. He never seemed to have that connection with Josh Freeman, and he he wasn't really the same player he was in 2009. 

I do think Stroughter has the talent and skills to thrive as a slot receiver, but he has to stay healthy to do so. Stroughter may find it hard to stay on the Bucs' roster next season, as Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Dezmon Briscoe and Michael Spurlock all seem to have moved ahead of him on the depth chart. If the Bucs add another receiver in the draft, Stroughter could find himself without a job.