What's in store for Arrelious Benn?
Watch Benn's final UI news conference here
Three questions with ... Lee Diekemper, managing editor of JoeBucsFan.com
Running a website devoted to the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Eastern Illinois graduate has a good read on how Arrelious Benn fits in. Diekemper is a former Tampa Tribune reporter who grew up in Beckemeyer, Ill., a town of 1,000 located 50 miles east of St. Louis.
What are the expectations for Arrelious Benn in his first year with Tampa Bay?
At some point to start. The Bucs wide receiver corps was, to be polite, woeful, prior to the draft. One could make an argument the Bucs had the worst set of wide receivers in the NFL once they let Antonio Bryant walk. When Sammie Stroughter, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, was expected to be the No. 1 receiver, that speaks volumes.
What was the consensus feeling among the fans and media in the area when he got picked?
Not sure who is more giddy over the draft, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik or the fans.
Without question the most hated Bucs player is wide receiver Michael Clayton, a former first-round draft pick. Since his rookie season, a year in which he showed great promise, he has been the walking definition of a bust. Clayton, who seems like a nice guy, let his emotions get the best of him too many times and lashed out at others for his inability to catch a cold or stay healthy. One vocal target was Jon Gruden. Clayton claimed he couldn't catch passes because, in so many words, he was scared of getting yelled at by Gruden.
When fans began to boo him, Clayton had some smartaleck remark about how his check was in the bank, which he later apologized for but the toothpaste was out of the tube. So when Benn (and Mike Williams) was drafted, fans took that as a sure sign Clayton's days are numbered and glasses were raised throughout the Tampa Bay area. If Clayton was cut tomorrow, he would have no shortage of people volunteering to help him move. Best as I can tell, the only reason he is still on the roster is that Dominik, who resigned Clayton to a very suspect, expensive contract, is trying to save face, giving Clayton one more shot to redeem himself. Dominik freely admits he "took a big gamble" resigning Clayton. Pretty sure Dominik wishes he could that decision – and the eight-figure signing bonus he gave Clayton – back.
That's a long-winded way of stating Bucs fans perceive the entrance of Benn to be the exit of Clayton, so Bucs fans are embracing Benn with open arms, like some form of savior.
In some respects, the expectations may be too high for Benn, they may be unfair. Let's not forget Benn is a rookie and rarely do rookie wide receivers shine much less start from Day 1. Dominik has all but said Benn would possibly start and Benn has yet to put on pads. There is no question Benn will be given every opportunity to start given the black hole of (no) talent at wide receiver, sans Williams and Stroughter.
The local Fourth Estate pretty much have a pool going: What game will Benn make his first start? Barring injury, it's not a matter of if, but when. That's how bad the Bucs receivers are.
Part of the reason the Bucs stunk so bad last year is dreadful play at wide receiver (when Bryant was on the sidelines). Teams basically ignored the passing game when Bryant was out with injuries, and keyed on a very average if not overrated cast of running backs, with eight, nine and sometimes 10 men in the box. It wasn't pretty.
Why worry about the wide receivers when they can't catch?
With Benn, having defenses key solely on the running game should no longer be an issue.
Give me your projection: Five years from now, what has Benn accomplished with the Bucs?
If Benn is going to be a successful wide receiver, he couldn't have found a much better place to land. Sure, there are better teams/organizations than the Bucs but few teams offer such a golden opportunity to start in Week 1, which is what every rookie wants: Playing time.
Dominik has strongly hinted that if Benn is not starting by the end of the season, something is wrong. Few teams will allow Benn the opportunities to shine than in Tampa Bay. He will have a decent line to work with, a franchise quarterback with a big arm who is just a year older than he is to grow with, and other weapons to take heat off of him (Kellen Winslow, Williams, Stroughter). If, like all other young receivers, Benn can learn to shake off defenders at the line, he could be a fixture in Pewter and Red for many years to come.