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Crunching the Numbers

The Buccaneers believe they are facing a "good problem" on the eve of the roster cut to 53 players, with more high-caliber talent on hand than they can possibly keep, and nowhere is that issue more difficult than at wide receiver


Most NFL teams devote five or six spots to wide receivers when they formulate their 53-man roster to begin the season.

Sometimes, however, that's not enough.

There's a delicate balance to that 53-man roster.  Keep an extra linebacker and you might have to tell your defensive line coach something he doesn't want to hear.  One more reserve on the offensive line, where good long-term talent is particularly hard to find, might mean one less special teams ace at the safety position.

And if you had planned to keep six receivers and you find yourself badly wanting to hold on to seven, something else is going to have to give.

Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in that position this September, with the cutdown to 53 a short day away?  They just might be.

Heading into the 2010 offseason, Buccaneers management admitted that receiver was a position of concern, and they very aggressively addressed that concern by trading for former Eagle Reggie Brown and drafting Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams in the second and fourth rounds, respectively.

Combine that with the continued development of 2009 seventh-round sensation Sammie Stroughter, the emergence last fall of Maurice Stovall as a viable starter, the eye-opening emergence of Micheal Spurlock, the unmistakable talent of rookie free agent Preston Parker and the continued presence of former 80-catch man Michael Clayton and you suddenly have a very difficult decision on cut-down day.  Or several difficult decisions, to be precise, which Head Coach Raheem Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik will be hashing out over the next 24 hours.

"Generally, it's in the five or six range," said Morris of the usual receiver total on the active roster.  "If you ask the offensive coordinator, he wants eight.  It's always fun to go up there and crunch those numbers, try to get as many good football players on the team as you can.  It's usually around five or six and if you go over that you've really got a strong group and you really feel good about them.  We're close to that, if not there."

It is mostly a young group, which means the decisions made this weekend could affect the team not just in 2010 and 2011 but for many years to come.  The main goal, though, is to be as strong as possible this fall.  What combination of the newcomers and possible veteran holdovers like Clayton, Brown and Stovall is the right mix?

"You see young hungry talent around here," said Morris.  "How much does that weigh into the emotional bank account when you see young guys with potential that can go out there and make plays?  I don't want to use those 'P' words – potential and the possibles and all those types of things – too much because that's where you run into trouble.  But for the most part we do have some guys that are going out there and making some plays, and we have a couple guys who have made some plays in the National Football League before.  We have our draft picks, and they've both shown up in the preseason.  One showed a little later than the other.  I'm excited about them."

It seems obvious, of course, that the Buccaneers will keep those two 2010 draftees, and perhaps build around them for years to come.  Williams has been so impressive so quickly that he got the veteran treatment in Houston on Thursday, sitting the game out while "young" players saw all the action.  Benn had been overshadowed by his draft mate until then but came out of the shadows in Houston with an acrobatic two-touchdown performance.

And the question isn't whether the Bucs have other intriguing talent at the spot with the likes of Spurlock and Parker and Brown.  The only question is how much of that talent they can keep on hand.  That's what Morris referred to as a "good problem" on Friday.

"It's always fun when you're talking about one particular position as much as we have talked about the receiver group," he said.  "That means there's great competition, that means the level is very high and that means that all these guys are going to [be considered].  At that position in particular there will be somebody from our roster that goes and plays for somebody else."

Will the Bucs add some more chairs to their receiver room in order to sort it out right?  Perhaps, but again, that means even more difficult decisions at other spots on the depth chart.

"You can't let the [position] numbers get completely out of whack because you get in trouble and you start to run out of players, or you get into those injury issues and have to bring people on really quickly and try to train them," Morris explained.  "But we've got some competition at different spots and competition across the board.  It's been a very positive training camp."

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