Last season's Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked 24th in the NFL in passing offense with one of the lowest points per game statistics relating to passing. So the front office at One Buc Place new they had to address this in the close season in order to move the Franchise forward...and boy did they!
Gone is Michael "Stonehands" Clayton who didn't even get to make his "I'm back to my rookie standard" speech this year, something I think we'll all miss!?!
Also gone is Antonio Bryant. I was one of many Bucs fans around the globe asking why we'd released our best receiver etc. However following his recent release from the Bengals I now totally understand and feel was a nice piece of work from Dominik and Co.
We didn't go in for high profile, but aging, free agents such as Terrell Owens, TJ Houshmandzadeh or Donte Stallworth either. Instead the Bucs have gone back to school with the rebuilding of their receiver corp.
Joining last year's 7th round gem Sammie Stroughter, Special Teams monster Maurice Stovall and fan hero Micheal Spurlock on the roster are three new receivers. The Bucs 3 new recruits (Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and Preston Parker) are all fresh out of the college game meaning the six receivers on the Buccaneers roster now have an average age of only 23.16 years old.
All six bring express speed and offer Raheem Morris' offense a real deep threat and mulitple options in the return game. When you add in Tight Ends Kellen "K2" Winslow, Jeremy Stevens and even John Gilmore, the Buccaneers passing attack will be looking to really step up this year and dominate as much through the air as they hope to with "Caddy, Earnie and Huggy" in the ground game.
With Josh Freeman coming into his second year, and first year as a starter, looking every inch an NFL quarterback he must be a very happy man to have some weapons at his disposal. Freeman could be found running for his life at times last year while waiting for Antonio Bryant to get open, something which didn't happen as often as we all had hoped.
Freeman's other favourite target last year was Mighty Mouse Miracle Sammie Strougther who made a series of cluctch receptions on 3rd downs towards the end of the season. At this stage, the projected starters are newboy Mike Williams and Stroughter, I personally feel that this will change to see Benn and Williams out there from the get go in the not too distant future. All of a sudden we've gone from wondering who is ever going to have a 1,000 yard receiving season we now have, in my opinion, at least two possibilities in Benn and Williams.
The fact the Bucs traded up to take Benn shows exactly what they thought they were getting from the man out of Illinois. Benn was described by commentators after a recent stunning catch in the pre-season over the Texans as "a future pro-bowler" and if he can recreate the form he showed in college and build on the early promise he has shown in the NFL then that is a realistic possibility.
Mike Williams in the 4th round may prove to be THE steal of the 2010 draft. He fell through the rounds for off the field issues/attitude problems and this may be to the Buccaneers' gain. Having had an excellent pre-season and already shown an understanding with Josh Freeman I am expecting big things from the Syracuse man.
Preston Parker comes to us as a bit of an unknown but in beating out not only Clayton but recently cut Reggie Brown to a roster place means that the Bucs coaching staff have seen something they like. In Stovall and Stroughter you have players who know the Bucs system inside out and have proved they are tough and can make catches in traffic when it matters.
All in all we are well stacked at the wideout position this coming season. We've got speed, toughness and height in our set of receivers now and that doesn't even include Winslow who was last season's leading receiver.
With our bigger, stronger, older and wiser franchise quarterback coming off his first full training camp as a starter I can see us starting as we mean to go on and passing/running the Panthers into submission on Sunday. It's been eight months since we've seen the Bucs play a meaningful game on the road ... not long left and I can't wait!