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michael89156

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: May 19, 2013, 12:00:49 AM



Bucs seek answers as workouts near

Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer 
 
Saturday, May 18, 2013
 






The Bucs begin offseason team activities, or OTAs, on Monday. If you don't know what those are, the description is simple: football practice. They're allotted 10 such workouts during the next few weeks, plus a three-day mandatory minicamp next month. That's not a lot of time to evaluate the many elements the team has worked on in the meeting room and in limited field work during the past few weeks of the offseason program, but it's plenty of time to get a head start on some important pending decisions. So, as the team embarks on the crucial weeks ahead, let's look at five important questions to be dealt with during OTAs:
 
Is Mike Glennon a quick study?
 
This question isn't relevant because the third-round pick is not going to overtake starting QB Josh Freeman. That's not the plan anyway. But Glennon, one would assume, is going to be the No. 2 on a team that last season kept only two.


If the team employs a similar approach in 2013, it had better be certain the rookie is ready to take over in the event something happens to Freeman. That makes the next few weeks crucial for Glennon. He has to learn the offense no small task as well as build relationships and trust with his linemen and receivers. His head is going to be swimming, but he's a smart guy and can handle it, or so the Bucs hope, anyway.
 
Can Luke Stocker be the man?
 
There were times last season when the tight end seemed like an afterthought in the passing game. But did you know Dallas Clark was targeted 76 times in 2012, third most of any receiver?
 
With Clark, a free agent, expected to play elsewhere in 2013, the featured tight end could very well be third-year player Stocker.
 
Is he ready? We'll see, but his opportunity starts now. He's healthy, which hasn't often been the case, and he has a legit chance after playing behind Kellen Winslow and Clark in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
 
The Bucs need to come out of OTAs with a comfort level about Stocker and his ability to fill this role. He has caught just 28 passes in two seasons, but the players behind him, including newcomer Tom Crabtree, have even thinner resumes.
 
Who's the strongside linebacker?
 
The Bucs don't need to have an absolute answer to this one right now. This can be ultimately settled in training camp. But coaches will want to enter camp with a pecking order, so they'll need to decide whether newcomer Jonathan Casillas is the frontrunner, or whether, say, Dekoda Watson finally makes a breakthrough.
 
This job belonged to Quincy Black last season, but he's dealing with a career-threatening injury and was released after a settlement was reached. It's one of only a handful of starting positions that truly is wide open.
 
Is Akeem Spence a starter?
 
He's a fourth-round pick, which doesn't necessarily mean he will start. But Spence, selected last month out of Illinois, is squarely in the mix at nose tackle, competing against veterans Derek Landri and Gary Gibson.
 
When the Bucs traded up 12 spots on Day 3 to draft Spence, it was a fairly strong indication of how they feel about him.
 
This won't get decided in OTAs. Linemen can't be accurately evaluated until the pads go on, and that won't happen until training camp. But Spence can make a mark by learning the scheme and showing his quickness off the line.
 
Three years ago, when WR Mike Williams was a rookie in 2010, he shined through OTAs and you knew he was destined for extensive playing time. We'll see whether Spence does the same.
 
How do the receivers look?
 
The team knows Vincent Jackson and Williams are its top two receivers in its base personnel grouping. But there's a jumbled group behind them vying for playing time and prominent roles. It will be interesting to see whether any of them begin to create separation from the pack.
 
This is a big offseason for Tiquan Underwood. He established himself as the No. 3 receiver last season, working mostly out of the slot, to catch a career-best 28 passes. This is a chance for the journeyman to develop continuity for the first time in his career. But he will have to fend off challenges from Cowboys free agent Kevin Ogletree, former Giants second-round pick Steve Smith, and even little-known speedster Chris Owusu.
 
Because of the limitations of offseason practices contact isn't allowed you tend to be able to evaluate skill positions such as receiver better. That's good, because the Bucs are going to have decisions to make here.
 


Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @holderstephen.

The Anti-Java

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#1 : May 19, 2013, 01:18:36 AM

I don't think Underwood makes the team.  There were several times last season, Freeman ripped him, for being in the wrong place on routes.  Unless those other dudes totally collapse, like Owusu, Ogletree, and Steve Smith.  He may turn out to be the least incompetent of that bunch, and they keep him, but I have my doubts.


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#2 : May 19, 2013, 07:44:59 AM

I'm just curious if we have a starting caliber NT, TE, or SLB on our roster.


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#3 : May 19, 2013, 08:13:25 AM

JD,

Well at least the questions that we have all surround positions that appear to be undervalued in Schiano's vision of the team.

I think we DO have a starting caliber SLB between Casillas, Hayward or Watson. Casillas is a pretty good athlete and Hayward did fine in the role after Black went down. I'm honestly not worried about that position.

I have only a slight concern about the TE position because it's only going to be a problem if the 3rd wide receiver doesn't step up. Clark wasn't getting any balls thrown his way last season until Underwood started to falter as the 3rd wide receiver, then the TE became a even alternate for the 3rd/4th receiver. I only see Martin (and now James) being more involved in the passing game so I think the TE's will mostly be blockers and not receiving threats. Martin and James are going to be Freeman's safety targets this year, not the TE.

Finally, the same is with the NT position, between Spence, Lantri and Gibson, I think we will be fine at NT. I see a pretty even rotation early in the season with either Lantri or Spence taking over the role as the season wears on.

Depth is my worry. A couple key injuries to the wide receivers could really hurt this team. McCoy missing significant time could hurt this team and I'm not sold on the linebacker depth but every team has weak areas. What is encouraging to me is that the coaching staff did a pretty good job of dealing with injuries last season.

Overall, IMO, all this team needs to be very good is confidence and coaching. The talent appears to be there.

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#4 : May 19, 2013, 08:45:09 AM

My biggest conceern is depth. Historically 10 to 15 players go on the IR every year. I think we are one year awau from being deep enough to absorb injuries.

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#5 : May 19, 2013, 10:07:40 AM

This is clearly the best starting roster this team has had since 2002. Depth is always an issue, bit I believe there is enough talent spread out on both sides of the line to be competitive in most situations, even the loss of Freeman. That would be tough and would put more pressure on the running game to carry the load. Unless we have multiple losses at key positions, I see 8-8 as a minimum. The Bucs are due for an injury free year. I really hope it's 2013. We're primed for the playoffs IMO.

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#6 : May 19, 2013, 10:13:13 AM

     Agree on the depth issue. When you pay for "superstars" (we all know who they are), you can't afford to overpay at other positions, or on depth. It's a major balancing act for Dom. I think Casillas and Hayward will be fine. As Casillas is reputedly a better coverage LB than Foster, we could see David and Casillas paired on 3rd downs, with Foster sitting. TE is more of a blocker on the Bucs, and Stocker supposedly has beefed up.
     Adding a promising QB in the draft was a big step, IMO. RB we will see if/how quickly James becomes productive. And Smith could actually develop, and I wouldn't discount Demps as a 3rd down back. No clearcut answer, but I do think we're a bit thin for TC. And Leonard might actually see more time at FB than Lorig, as he's an upgrade at running the ball, which is not Lorig's thing.
     If we were to lose Vincent Jackson, our offense would be hurtin'; Williams doesn't appear to be the answer. This kid Boyd we signed has the physical tools, a great leaper, fast, and reputedly a real hard worker. Could develop in time. Same deal as RB; a lot of youth... still lookin' for that "diamond in the rough"...

PassThePigSkin

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#7 : May 19, 2013, 12:07:10 PM

I think Kevin Ogletree steps up. I'm interested in the SLB battle.

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#8 : May 19, 2013, 12:15:44 PM

My biggest conceern is depth. Historically 10 to 15 players go on the IR every year. I think we are one year awau from being deep enough to absorb injuries.
10-15 go on IR? That seems high. How many players that matter went last year? Joseph, Clayborn and Penn?


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#9 : May 19, 2013, 12:39:15 PM

I'm just curious if we have a starting caliber NT, TE, or SLB on our roster.

fair question . .  albeit about the positions of least impact

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#10 : May 19, 2013, 12:52:41 PM

Why isnt steve smith being talked about more? The guy had over 100 receptions one year and 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also had over 50 catches another year and over 40 another. I think thats amazing to have as a third receiver. Than ogeltree having over 30 catches and 4 td's last year is great to have as a 4th, and underwood would make a fine 5th. I think we have great wide receiver depth. The TE is the big problem, as well as nose tackle and sam linebacker. I like gary gibson though, he seemed to do pretty well last year when he got playing time
: May 19, 2013, 12:54:20 PM barbernbrooks

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#11 : May 19, 2013, 12:53:56 PM

I think Kevin Ogletree steps up. I'm interested in the SLB battle.

I'm curious what leads you to believe this?

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#12 : May 19, 2013, 01:49:34 PM

My biggest conceern is depth. Historically 10 to 15 players go on the IR every year. I think we are one year awau from being deep enough to absorb injuries.
10-15 go on IR? That seems high. How many players that matter went last year? Joseph, Clayborn and Penn?
Penn?  You must mean Nicks.  But I agree that 10 to 15 seems high.  There were several more out for various reasons.  Black, Wright, Bowers, to name a few.  It's all the same.  Key players out have hurt this team.

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#13 : May 19, 2013, 01:54:31 PM

My biggest conceern is depth. Historically 10 to 15 players go on the IR every year. I think we are one year awau from being deep enough to absorb injuries.
10-15 go on IR? That seems high. How many players that matter went last year? Joseph, Clayborn and Penn?
Penn?  You must mean Nicks.  But I agree that 10 to 15 seems high.  There were several more out for various reasons.  Black, Wright, Bowers, to name a few.  It's all the same.  Key players out have hurt this team.
yes, Nicks. My bad.

Bowers was on PUP, Wright was suspended. Black was placed on IR so I guess that makes 4 starters


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#14 : May 19, 2013, 02:07:58 PM

Muscle Hamster. To your point, there were probably 4 to 5 that were important players that went down but usually the total number gets to around 10 to 15 total for the year.I remember SR writing that stat last year and I thought it was high but sure enough a bunch went down.

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