The 2009 NFL Draft is officially in the books for Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-year head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik.
The Bucs selected quarterback Josh Freeman (first round), Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller (third round), USC defensive end Kyle Moore, Illinois offensive tackle Xaiver Fulton, Western Michigan cornerback E.J. Biggers and Oregon State wide receiver Sammie Stroughter in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Morris and Dominik fielded questions from the local media shortly after the draft concluded on Sunday evening.
Read their thoughts on Tampa Bay's 2009 draft class in the Q&A session below.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris
“We filled a couple of needs today, and we feel really good about it. We added a bunch of good players. We created more competition. We felt great about everything.”
Will defensive tackle Roy Miller play early?
“I think a couple of guys can step in and play right away. I definitely think Roy can. He definitely has the ability to. I don’t see why not. I think his attitude and work ethic is going to carry him through. That’s the difference between the pros and college game. The guys that come in ready to work harder than everybody else usually play.”
Will Miller play left or right defensive tackle?
“We are kind of a right and left team now. He’ll play both. He’ll hold up in any gap you put him in, take on the double teams and provide a cushion against the run. He can cause some havoc in there to free up the ends to get around to the quarterback. It’s a good fit for us.”
Do you like Miller’s mental toughness?
“That’s been coming up a lot today. I want every single pick we made today to feel like they should have been picked yesterday. You love that mentality. We want these guys to come in here and be excited and ready to compete. That’s the environment we’re trying to create.”
Will DE Kyle Moore compete on the left side?
“That’s the plan, to put him on the left side to compete with Jimmy Wilkerson and let them fight it out. Two dogs and one bone. That’s the mentality. Put them in thre and let them go at it.”
What do you think of your outside pass rush at defensive end with the addition of Moore?
“The ends got a lot of the pass rush for us last year. We felt like we lacked it in the middle. When we went to our go package we put Stylez White on the right and Gaines Adams on the left. Both of those guys got it going. But we lost the push a little in the middle. A big guy like Kyle [Moore] you can slide inside for a presence that we haven’t had around here in a long time. We can slide him inside and have him work with Ryan Sims to create that push, or maybe with one of the other guys to do that. If we can create that push inside you might see a more fired up Gaines or a more fired up Stylez. We’ll see how it goes on the field.”
Can you talk about cornerback E.J. Biggers?
“We had him projected a little higher and rolled the dice a little bit. You’re talking about a 4.3 guy in the 40. He shows a lot of bump-man skills on tape. He came inside their building pumped up. He’s a good kid. Great character and presence. We’re fired up to get a 6-foot corner that can run 4.3. He can come in and compete. I’m excited about E.J. Biggers.”
What about wide receiver Sammie Stroughter?
“We had a chance to get him and we did. To get him where we did with as much production as he’s had in his career is great. He’s excited. I talked to Sabby Piscitelli, who was raving about this kid, telling me how he can help us and create some excitement in the slot. Stroughter is probably a 4.5 guy, but he’s got that Peanut about him because he’s a lot faster than that on the field when he sticks his hand down on the ground and moves.”
How do you feel about the cornerback position right now?
“We’re starting Aqib Talib at left corner. Ronde is the aging veteran that keeps making plays for us. Now we added a guy like Elbert Mack, who we fell in love with last year, and E.J. Biggers today. We have some great guys in the hopper from the practice squad. Kyle Arrington is ready to step up and play. These guys are going to compete and play. We’ll add some more guys in free agency to get another Elbert Mack.”
Where are the holes you need to address in terms of the undrafted free agents you might target now?
“We’re calling people now. There are obviously a few holes you want to fill. We didn’t draft a safety obviously, so we might go through free agency.”
Talk about tackle Xavier Fulton
“You get this guy and you have possibly swing tackles that can play some guard. He’s a big, strong athletic guy. We’re fired up to get a guy like that. He can go out and play some left or right tackle for us. We could move him to guard. Our team is better, and our depth is better today.”
Can you talk about DE Kyle Moore’s intangibles?
“When you meet the young man you’ll notice a swagger. He’s very confident. He went to USC and had a lot of success. When you have a chance to add him to your team and D-line it’s got to help you and you have to feel good about it. The first two guys we took in the draft – Josh Freeman and Roy Miller – they were captains on their teams. They bring those qualities to our team. That’s what we need.”
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik
Are the Buccaneers a better team after this draft?
“Yeah. We are a better team. We’re excited about the guys that we have obviously added to the football team today and yesterday. We’re certainly a better football team. We’ve created some really good competition, especially at the defensive line. A lot of people sit here and feel like we have hit on a lot of needs throughout the draft. We were able to take a couple guys towards the end that we thought had an interesting future and I think they will be interesting guys for our fans to watch. Our scouts are excited about it and I know our coaches are, too.”
Was the focus on the second day on defense?
“Yes, it was important, especially on the defensive line. We understood that we wanted to add more men that are going to help create that competition at defensive end and defensive tackle. We got a corner late in the draft that we felt could really push some of the younger guys on our team. That was kind of the focus today, but at the same time, we were able to grab a tackle [in Xavier Fulton] that we think has a big future and a real strong possibility. He’s new to the position, but those two years of experience were very important to us. And then we took a receiver that we feel is a real dynamic playmaker that I think you’ll see on the highlights.”
Did you have any indication about what the response was going to be drafting a quarterback in the first round and the scrutiny that came with that decision?
“I was very aware. I have been apart of this organization for 14 years. I got to start with it when [linebacker Derrick] Brooks and [defensive tackle Warren] Sapp stepped in the door. I understand this town and how important defense is to it. The year before I got here was the last time we took a quarterback in the first round [with Trent Dilfer in 1994]. I knew there was going to be some reservations about that considering what this town is so used to and what it’s all about. But I am excited about what we did yesterday in terms of the long-term direction and plan for this franchise. So it was an important position for us to obviously address, so we did that yesterday.”
What did you see in Josh Freeman?
“Last year, we went to play the Kansas City Chiefs and I had the opportunity to see Josh Freeman play live. That was another part of the evaluation. I saw KU play K-State. That was a great tool. I walked on the field in pre-game and I was amazed at his size, his arm strength and his delivery. With all the pre-game stuff you were thinking, ‘Wow. This guy has a lot of talent.’ But there were some questions with him that you just couldn’t answer. When we walked through him and started the draft preparation to taking him with the first pick this year, he continued to check the boxes on things that were important to us. The nice thing was having Raheem Morris and the insight to the things you don’t know. Does he love football? What time does he show up every day? What time did he show up at K-State? Is he a leader? Do the guys in the locker room like him? Do they respond to him? Raheem was able to address some of those big questions you are worried about at the quarterback position. That’s why we were confident in taking him.”
Will the Bucs look at bringing back Kevin Carter or does Kyle Moore answer the questions at left defensive end?
“We’re excited about having Kyle Moore be on the football team and compete with Jimmy Wilkerson at left defensive end. Kyle is going to be a versatile player for us. He’s 270. I think he has the ability to be bigger. Our coaches are excited about him because he has the ability at his size to go inside to rush the passer possibly on third down. So he has that versatility that we are looking for in this defense. It’s a nice complement to Roy Miller and what he brings as a defensive tackle as a run-stuffing, tough, physical guy. He brings it every down as a run stopper. Now we have the ability to take Kyle Moore, who might be our left end and also put him inside. So those two really are a nice combination.”
How do you feel about the team’s pass rush right now?
“We’re comfortable with where we’re at. Jimmy Wilkerson played spot time and had a lot of sacks for us. Obviously, Greg White has had a lot of sacks for us over the last two years. I think he’s had 13 sacks. We expect more out of Gaines [Adams] and I think Gaines expects more out of Gaines. I think this defense fits Gaines to a ‘T.’ I think Jim Bates and his philosophy will also use the linebackers more as blitzers. So we expect to get more pressure. We want to stop the run and attack the quarterback. Today, I think those two pieces (in Miller and Moore) will surprise people with what they can do because of their tenacity, especially a Roy Miller because he brings it every down. That gets you extra sacks because now Gaines is pinching the edge and Roy is pushing the middle and hopefully meeting in the middle. It’s the same thing with Moore. He has the flexibility to be an outside and an inside pass rusher, and that was part of the attraction was his inside pass rush.”
Is this a year of discovery for you where you will play some defensive players who haven’t had the opportunity to start or play a lot and see if they rise or fall?
“That’s a good question. That’s very true. It goes back to the question about Kevin Carter. Out of respect to Kevin Cater – and he’s a very good football player, a fine football player – this gives the opportunity for a Kyle Moore and a Jimmy Wilkerson to step into a role for them to play not only in 2009, but who is going to be our left end in 2010 and 2011? This opportunity is now in front of them. We’re looking forward to them taking advantage of it. I think that will happen at linebacker, cornerback and defensive line. It will happen on offense with the receiver we drafted in the seventh round. We expect him to compete and push some of those other receivers that have been on this team for years.”
You didn’t draft a linebacker. Is that position still a work in progress or are you set to go into the season with the linebackers you have?
“I think we’re really close. We may sign one college free agent. I think we have one guy targeted and as soon as the draft is over we’re going to call him up and see if we can get him. After that, I think we’re real comfortable with where we are. I do like [Angelo] Crowell. I think he’ll be on the field full-time in May. Obviously, Barrett Ruud is in the middle and I think we have great competition at the Will linebacker spot with Jermaine Phillips and Geno Hayes. So for us, the way we are sitting here today, I feel comfortable that we have addressed the linebacker position.”
How were the owners apart of this draft?
“They are the owners. They get the inside information that a lot of people would love to have. They certainly value the discussions that we’ve had all the way through the seventh round I’ve talked to them about. I’ve talked to them about this is the player we are selecting and this is why we are selecting them.”
Was selecting a quarterback in the first round something that the Glazers felt strongly about doing?
“I would say that it is far, but I think it was Raheem and I saying this is the direction we would really like to go. Obviously they are excited about Josh.”
Successful quarterbacks have a swagger to them. Does Freeman have that alpha male presence?
“Can he be an alpha male? Sure. Once he proves it on the football field. I think you become a little more alpha male when you show everybody that you are the big dog, and no offense to [Steve] Duemig. I think once you show it on the field, you have a better opportunity to prove that you are the big dog. Do I think he has that in him? Absolutely. When you get a chance to meet him, and you’ve been around him a little bit he’s not arrogant, he’s not cocky, he is just confident. You get a good feeling around him.”
What is your plan for Freeman in terms of getting on the field?
“Our plan would really be to compete with the four quarterbacks we take to camp, and let his talent show. I understand he’s 21. I’ve seen it where it helps if they sit. I saw last year where the guys played themselves on the football field, but I do realize he’s a young quarterback, and ideally you’d like those guys to learn a little bit, prepare, and get caught up to the game. We’ll see how it goes in the preseason.”
You said the team has to do a better job of drafting on the second day. Why do you believe that happened this year?
“Well I think today, we did have a good day. Every general manager stands up today and says, ‘I had a good day.’ I think it will show in August when everybody is hopefully out here seeing our games and our young players step up. I think it will show with Roy Miller. We drafted a leader. A lot of people were concerned about the leadership we lost. Obviously Raheem and I were just as concerned about that. The first two selections were team captains voted by their teammates. It is more important for us to bring leadership back in with some of the youthful players too. I think it will show in time.”
The contract extensions you gave Kellen Winslow with two-years left on his contract breaks a practice of former general manager Bruce Allen, who wouldn’t give extensions when a player had two-plus seasons remaining on his contract. Was there any trepidation to do that because it could cause other players to ask for new contracts or similar extensions?
“I would say to that I have a feeling that Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen and what they did here … things are a lot different. Obviously Jon, as I watched and listened today was raving about Josh Freeman – that was nice to hear. For us in terms of precedent, the Philadelphia Eagles traded a one, and a four, and a six for an offensive tackle that had two years left on his deal. I think it is different when you make a commitment with the draft picks, you don’t take it lightly. When you make a commitment with a draft pick you have committed to that player. For us with Kellen Winslow, it was a long-term decision with him as well, and that is why we went ahead and did the deal with him. We are excited to bring in here. I think you’ll see that on the field when you see him in practice and see him in the games.”