Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Under-the-Radar Players Ready to Break out in 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will resume training camp Wednesday morning, having already endured four days of blistering Florida heat and humidity.
And while the players were undoubtedly appreciative of the much-needed day off on Tuesday, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done if the Bucs intend on improving their 4-12 record of a season ago.
For what it's worth this early on, receiver Vincent Jackson has looked as talented and dangerous as advertised. He is in sync with quarterback Josh Freeman and has shown flashes of why the team decided to invest such a large sum of money for his services.
Likewise, rookie running back Doug Martin is every bit as fast and agile as his Boise State highlight reels would suggest. It's easy to see why the Bucs were willing to trade back into the first round in order to select him in this past April's draft.
Both Jackson and Martin are expected to factor heavily in the Bucs' plans this season, but which players currently flying under the radar will, by season's end, have had a breakout campaign?
Cornerback Anthony Gaitor
Gaitor is not only built like a prototypical nickel cornerback (5'10", 175 lbs.), but he also possesses the physical attributes (speed, lateral quickness, jumping ability, etc.) as well. A seventh-round pick from a year ago, Gaitor stands to benefit from additional reps in camp given the recent injury to fellow corner E.J. Biggers.
Not to mention if the first few training camp sessions are any indication, the new coaching staff's attention to detail will do wonders for the younger players such as Gaitor.
Tight end Luke Stocker
The trade that sent Kellen Winslow cross-country to coffee town not only served as a clarion call to the players, but it also allowed for the eventual signing of veteran Dallas Clark. The latter is of significance because of Clark's penchant for missing games—15 of them over the past two seasons. That is where second-year player Luke Stocker comes into play.
If the recent trend holds true and Clark misses games, Stocker (6'6", 253 lbs.) is positioned nicely to fill the void.
Wide receiver Preston Parker
By now, most Bucs fans are well aware of Preston Parker and his ability to make crucial third-down receptions. In fact, 20 of his 40 receptions last season occurred on third downs. With the recent addition of the aforementioned Vincent Jackson, there is a growing belief that opposing defenses will be willing to overlook the smaller, lesser-known Parker in an effort to cover the bigger target.
Yes, Parker hauled in 40 catches for 554 yards last season, but if the opposition wants to gamble on Jackson, Parker should easily exceed those numbers this season.
Defensive end Michael Bennett
Pop quiz: Who had the second-most sacks on the Bucs last season? If you said Bennett, you would be correct. His four sacks trailed only rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who racked up 7.5 sacks.
With second-year end Da'Quan Bowers expected to miss most (if not all) of the 2012 campaign with an Achilles injury, Bennett should once again find himself with ample opportunities to strike fear into opposing quarterbacks.
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