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Sleeper picks for the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For anyone that tuned into “Two Hand Touch” Sunday morning on 1010 am radio in Tampa, “Old School”, “Spent” and the crew were nice enough to have me on the show and we touched on some players who could provide big time for the Bucs in 2012. ( Show Link: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20877827). If you are a Bucs fan, their show is a must listen. One of those players is Ed Gant whom I will lead off with, but the following are some other players to watch out for during training camp and pre-season.

Ed Gant (WR): Gant made it tough for Raheem Morris to keep him from the active roster last year but he was ultimately relegated to the practice squad. Gant caught 5 balls on 7 targets for 165 yards including a 96 yard touchdown. He also added a two point conversion and led all receivers in pre-season yardage. While his numbers primarily came against second and third team defenses, the same could have been said about Victor Cruz a few seasons ago when he too was a pre-season darling but was buried in the depth chart. Gant was signed to a futures contract and will be a part of training camp. With a new regime in town, he has a chance to make the active roster and could see a role come game time. With all the focus on Free Agency and the need for a “burner” out wide, the Bucs could have exactly what they need on their team. At 6’3, Gant is ties Raymond Webber as the tallest receiver on last year’s roster and running a 4.37-4.45 40 yard dash puts him as the fasted player among receivers. Gant fits Mike Schiano’s vision of the offense perfectly so it will be on him to prove last year was no fluke. While it is more realistic to believe he will be slowly worked into an already heavy rotation, Schiano could surprise us and give the jobs to those deserving of it based on performance and not contract status.

Ahmad Black (S): With safeties Cory Lynch and Sean Jones likely being allowed to test the market, the Bucs will be looking for someone to pair with Tanard Jackson. Black was signed to the practice squad after a high ankle sprain killed his pre-season but the Bucs thought enough of the 5th round pick to sign him to a 4 year contract once he was promoted to the active roster in December. Though he will have competition in Larry Asante, Black should have no problem winning the job. Asante was a 5th round pick by Cleveland and was cut after a poor training camp and was picked up by the Bucs who used him primarily as a reserve. There is also the presence of Cody Grimm who could retain the starters role, but 2 consecutive seasons of injury are cause for concern. If Black can return to his Florida Gators playing form, the combination of he and Tanard Jackson could pay huge dividends.

Kellen Winslow  (TE): Bucs fans should be very excited about the potential for Kellen Winslow Jr. If he does stay healthy all season again, Winslow could be primed for a monster season. His “sleeper” tag here denotes the belief he could return to his 2007 form which saw him nab 5 scores and 1,106 yards in Cleveland. His father changed the Tight End position under the “Air Coryell” system so this is something Winslow Jr. is sure to have understood well as a youth getting direction from his father. The Bucs will be using a variant of the Coryell system, using it’s philosophies in terms of passing downs and movement along the line of scrimmage. A power running game will be the heart of the Bucs 2012 offense but they will definitely use creative ways of stretching the field. The tight end will play a pivotal role, often times being tasked with the simple goal of finding a zone in the defense to sit down in as receivers go racing for a deep ball opportunity. A healthy Winslow already poses mismatch issues and we could see him improve on his disappointing 2 touchdowns season last year. As stated in earlier articles, think the San Diego Charger in terms of offensive style and you have something close to what the Bucs should look like this season. When you think of the Chargers, you think of Antonio Gates. IF Winslow can come into camp healthy and stay that way throughout the season, we could see his best year a Buccaneer.

Da’Quan Bowers (DE): The once expected number one draft pick was a gift to the Buccaneers in the second round, providing them a value they could not pass up. Though Bowers did not crack the starting lineup until week 10, he did have that monster game against the Carolina Panthers (8 tackles, 1.5 sacks) which gave us a glimpse of his potential. All signs so far have pointed to the knee not being an issue so it seems the production level was more about acclimating himself to the NFL play. With Butch Davis able to direct the coaching staff and Schiano guiding him, Bowers could prove to be the perfect bookend to a line which has Adrian Claiborne on the other side. A season wiser and stronger will definitely prove valuable and we should see it on the field.

Myron Lewis (CB): The Bucs front office has always been high on Lewis and expect him to take over for Ronde Barber. At 6’2 with a 40 time of 4.8, Lewis was highly regarded coming out of Vanderbilt. Lewis has been another player plagued by injury the last few seasons and it has impacted his status on the depth chart. However, with Aqib Talib facing legal issues and Ronde Barber still in limbo, Lewis could see himself start training camp with a clear path to the starting job. He has the tools and Ron Cooper will be able to teach Lewis how to get the most out of his abilities.