Keep an eye on Clayton

Published: December 31st, 2007
By Bucs Beat | - St. Petersburg Times and tbt*

Seems like every postseason, guys you don't expect step forward to play pivotal roles.

You get the sense that Michael Clayton could be such a player for the Bucs. Lately, he looks as fast, nimble and confident as he has at any point since his rookie season. And if he can bottle whatever he has captured in recent weeks and take it with him into the postseason, the Bucs could have an additional weapon on their hands.

Much of Clayton's problem this year has been his health. He suffered a nasty ankle sprain at Detroit back in October and it took him some time to recover and regain his role in the offense. The past two weeks,while Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway have had barely any workload, Clayton has stepped up, catching 10 passes for 131 yards.

Against Carolina on Sunday, he made a couple of tough catches in traffic that conjured images of receptions he made as a rookie in 2004 (seems like ages ago, I know). He told me today the biggest difference is in his confidence, which is growing with each productive performance. Notice that lately you haven't seen the blatant drops we grew accustomed to from him during the past two seasons.

It's hard to say whether Jon Gruden will call Clayton's number in a game as big as Sunday's, but don't be surprised if he does. The only question then is whether Clayton is up for the task.

For some reason, the topic of Michael Clayton seems to bring out the passion in people, so feel free to let your opinion be known: if Gruden calls on Clayton, are you comfortable with him playing a bigger role?