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August 30, 2012 @ 9:30 am
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Pewter Report Roundtable: Bucs vs. Redskins

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Did Bucs safety Sean Baker do enough to earn a roster spot? What is the weak spot on the 2012 Buccaneers? Should the Bucs consider trading LeGarrette Blount? Get the answers and find out what the PR staff thought about Tampa Bay's 30-3 preseason loss at Washington in the Pewter Report Roundtable.
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Here is what the Pewter Reporters think of Tampa Bay's 30-3 loss at Washington in the 2012 preseason finale:


• In the Bucs’ 30-3 loss to the Redskins, Tampa Bay really wanted to get a close look at cornerback Myron Lewis in Washington to figure out if the enigmatic third-year veteran had developed enough to make the 53-man roster. Lewis has been considered a bust since he was drafted in the third round in 2010 because of his timid approach to coverage. Despite being blessed with ideal cornerback size at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, the Vanderbilt product has been susceptible to getting beat and not making enough plays.

The type of play that Lewis had in Washington was indicative of his young NFL career – a few decent plays and a couple of really bad ones. Lewis had two pass breakups and a tackle for loss, but one of those pass breakups was a dropped interception in the first quarter that would have greatly aided his cause in making the team.

Lewis got beat deep on a 46-yard pass play by Anthony Armstrong in the first half and then had a pass interference penalty later in the game. Being a third-year player, the Bucs need to have more confidence in Lewis than they do. His play, as demonstrated on Wednesday night in Washington, is untrustworthy, which is why he is fighting for the fifth cornerback job behind Aqib Talib, Eric Wright, Anthony Gaitor and E.J. Biggers.

Undrafted free agent rookie Leonard Johnson is a better player. He may not have Lewis’ physical skill set and athleticism, but he’s tougher – physically and mentally – and is a more reliable player against the run and the pass because of the angles he takes and his anticipation. Johnson is worth keeping over Lewis because of his upside.

Lewis will likely get a reprieve for a few weeks because Biggers won’t be ready by the start of the season and Tampa Bay will likely need to carry an extra cornerback on the roster until Biggers returns to action, which should be in a couple weeks. After he’s healthy, it could be the end of Lewis’ tenure as a Buccaneer.

• Reserve safety Sean Baker had the type of game that reminded me of the one former Bucs safety Corey Lynch had a few years ago in Houston with two interceptions, including one he returned for a 91-yard touchdown. Baker was a more sure tackler than Cody Grimm was on Wednesday night at Washington, finishing the game with six, including a couple that could be defined as touchdown-saving.

More importantly, Baker, who has been solid, but not spectacular during training camp, picked off a couple of passes and recovered a fumble. Those splash plays were the only bright spot for a pathetic defense that didn’t record a sack and gave up 459 yards, including 228 yards on the ground.

Baker, a 6-foot-1, 209-pound rookie from Ball State, did what he did best in college – create turnovers. Baker had 18 interceptions for the Cardinals in four seasons and also returned a pair of fumble recoveries for touchdowns. In one game against Washington, the rookie proved to be more opportunistic than either Grimm, fellow backup Larry Asante or even sixth-round draft pick Keith Tandy, who led the team in tackles with nine on Wednesday.

The Bucs could keep five safeties, especially with Tandy’s ability to play both cornerback and safety, and after Ronde Barber, Mark Barron, Ahmad Black and Tandy, Baker deserves a roster spot due to his toughness, sure-tackling and playmaking ability.

• The real weakness in Tampa Bay’s defense is the defensive line. The Bucs just don’t have any pure pass rushers on the team outside of defensive ends Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn, who only combined for 11.5 sacks last year. Clayborn has the talent and potential to become a double-digit sacker in the NFL, but he will face his share of double teams this season.

The Buccaneers defensive line only produced one sack this preseason, and that was from Bennett against the Patriots last week. The only two other sacks came from linebacker blitzes from Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward.

Tampa Bay was a poor sacking team last year and to only get three sacks in the preseason was very disappointing, especially considering the fact that the Bucs not only have a new defensive line coach in Randy Melvin, but also a front seven pass-rushing coach in Bryan Cox.

The Bucs defensive line is still a work in progress and it will be interesting to see which players end up making the 53-man roster. Clayborn, Bennett, defensive tackles Gerald McCoy, Roy Miller, Amobi Okoye and Gary Gibson appear to be locks – although Okoye and Gibson have been hampered with injuries. That’s six players. The Bucs will likely keep two more from the group of George Johnson, Frank Okam and Wallace Gilberry, but that’s not saying too much.

If the preseason is any indication, Tampa Bay will have to rely on a lot of blitzing from linebackers, safeties and nickel corners to generate any pass rush and produce sacks. Of course, if defensive end Da’Quan Bowers comes back healthy from his Achilles injury within the next six weeks that could be the game-changer Tampa Bay’s pass rush needs.

Editor-in-chief Mark Cook
• When Davin Joseph went down last week against the Patriots with a severe knee injury that landed him on injured reserve, the Buccaneers knew their depth along the offensive line would be tested. After watching Wednesday night’s game it is clear how poor the offensive line depth actually is.

For the record, offensive line depth is something few NFL teams possess the luxury of having. The free agency market for offensive line depth is thin year after year. If you can play at decent level, teams lock you up contract wise usually before the player reaches free agency.

So with that said, what direction do the Buccaneers go in an effort to replace Joseph? In a perfect world Ted Larsen steps into that role and performs at a decent level and the bus keeps rolling. But again, after Wednesday night’s game at Washington, did Larsen show enough to allow general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano a good night’s sleep? It is highly doubtful. Larsen, along with another potential replacement, Derek Hardman looked exactly like backups, and at times even worse. Desmond Wynn fared no better.

Tampa Bay could look to sign another team’s castoff after the cut downs Friday night. But again, will there be a talent upgrade even available to sign?

Perhaps the Buccaneers move Larsen to center and shift Jeremy Zuttah back to guard. But that creates a step backwards, as Zuttah has been working at center since last spring when Jeff Faine was released, and Zuttah signed a new contract. A center and quarterback need to develop somewhat of a chemistry. Josh Freeman and Zuttah have spent the last 5 months developing that relationship which includes pre-snap line calls. Throwing Larsen in at center now, one week before the season opener isn’t the most ideal scenario. But at this point it may be the team’s best option after watching the performance of the offensive line in Washington.

• I created quite a bit of discussion on Tuesday when I suggested the Buccaneers should consider trading running back LeGarrette Blount. While I have no inside knowledge of any trade talks, looking at it, it seems to be something Tampa Bay should at least explore. With Doug Martin clearly the starter – as confirmed by Schiano this week – Blount could possibly bring as high as a second-round pick in a trade with teams looking for a No.1 running back.

First of all I totally understand how important it is to have a capable backup running back. We saw how critical it was last season for the Buccaneers after injuries to Blount and Earnest Graham. But with Doug Martin, Michael Smith, and Mossis Madu, the Buccaneers may be better off this season than last, even without Blount.

If Dominik were offered a second or even a third-round draft pick for backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky and didn’t take it, most Bucs’ fans would think he were crazy. Yet a majority of NFL teams go into every season with huge drop off at what is the most critical position on any NFL team – the quarterback!

I also question how effective Blount will be as a backup. He clearly isn’t a third down back, and I am not sure how the Buccaneers plan to utilize Blount coming off the bench. He isn’t a short-yardage back either. Blount, going into his third season, still has numerous false steps in the backfield before hitting the hole, so would he be beneficial on third-and-short or around the goal line?

After two seasons Blount is still a one-dimensional type running back. And for those who keep saying you need to have a two-headed attack at running back to win in the NFL, just take a look at the two teams that played in the Super Bowl last season, the Giants and Patriots. One was ranked 20th in the league while the other was dead last. Yes, the Super Bowl winning New York Giants finished 32nd.

Of course in a perfect world it would be great to have two No.1 running backs on the roster, but it would also be great to have two No. 1 quarterbacks, or right guards for that matter. It most certainly would be a gamble, but if the reward was great enough it is at least something Tampa Bay should consider.

Beat Writer Dory LeBlanc
•Wide receiver is one of the few positions of depth for the Buccaneers. With two locks in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, the competition for the assumed remaining four spots has been a battle over the last month, and got even hotter when the Bucs claimed Jordan Shipley off of waivers from Cincinnati 10 days ago.

With essentially no offseason workouts, and a very short period of time to learn the basics of Mike Sullivan’s playbook, Shipley started behind the curve and needed a big game against Washington to ensure his spot. The only problem is, Shipley could’ve made the loudest noise in returns, but was silent – signaling fair catch on all three opportunities (one punt, two kick). To be fair on the kickoffs, Billy Cundiff kicked two touchbacks, and as far as the fair catch on the punt, Shipley may just not have liked what he saw ahead of him.

If Shipley was counting on the returns as a way to seal the deal with final roster cuts coming up Friday, the defense is more to blame than the three-year receiver out of Texas. The Bucs forced only one punt, which is where Shipley would be utilized on special teams with rookie Michael Smith more than likely a lock as the kick returner. On offense, Shipley was targeted three times, catching one pass – a 12 yarder in the middle of the field. One of the reasons the Bengals released Shipley was the uncertainty of how he would bounce back from reconstructive knee surgery after being cleared to practice July 30th.

At One Buc, Shipley has looked every bit of the slant receiver he was his rookie season when he caught 52 passes for 600 yards, but with wideout not necessarily an area of need for Tampa Bay, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bucs just don’t think Shipley is where he should be after missing so much time not only with the Buccaneers, but football in general. Keeping Shipley and hoping he catches on and the knee holds up is a gamble, and if there weren’t six other receivers vying for the coveted four spots, it may have been an easier bet for the Bucs.

•One of the most important parts of the offensive line puzzle is making sure all the pieces fit together. The easier and most efficient way to do this is to make sure that the players are on the field together. Schiano decided against this theory in order to rest starters Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah and Jeremy Trueblood and left Jamon Meredith who got the nod in place of Davin Jospeh to fend for himself on the second team line.

Meredith held his own at right guard, but his progress at the position could have been hastened if he would have played with the starters. Chemistry is the key ingredient to a successful O-Line, and the Bucs need to make sure they are giving Josh Freeman ample protection and opening up running lanes for Doug Martin before the season opener next week. Coupled with Schiano wanting to test the waters at right tackle with both Trueblood and Demar Dotson, the right side of the line is in some trouble.

Escaping more injuries is the Bucs’ top priority, but getting the new linemen installed and working as a well-oiled machine has to be on Tampa Bay’s short list of things to do. The Bucs O-Line will undoubtedly be working hard when they resume practice to establish the chemistry it needs heading into the regular season, but it would have been nice to have them play together in a live-game against another team.

Last modified on Monday, 10 September 2012 11:09

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  • avatar

    Duece Lutui was cut last week by the Seahawks, wonder why the Bucs haven't inquired about him or have they!? He'd be good in the run game for sure.
  • avatar

    Why doesn't anybody talk about Benn not making the team. He's another draft pick who's disappointed.Think about it, we haven't seen him play a snap this pre season because he's hurt yet again. While Shipley's out there trying, and Underwoods been busting his butt all summer making plays, Benn's been watching. Coach say's it might not be the best 53, but it will be the 53 we think it's best for the Bucs. I don't think Benn has done enough in his career to deserve a roster spot.
  • avatar

    Personally, I see Benn asa guy who might be the second most talented WR on the team. That hasn't translated to the field yet, and you're right that that eventually has to mean that the team moves on, but he's had a rough go with injuries to this point. He's too good when healthy to send packing after two seasons. I would have made the same argument with Brian Price, but it seems like there were issues there with focus and overall interest to go with the injury struggles. Benn has the potential to be a very, very good receiver, in my opinion. He's a slow learner, so I would guess that we won't really see it til next season, but if it brings big returns, then I'm willing to wait.
  • avatar

    While I am a LG Blount fan, I do recognize his limitations. I honestly think that his biggest limitation is one that most people don't talk about is his vision. He doesn't find the finer holes and struggles to anticipate where the hole will open up. What's funny is that all of the weaknesses people talk about - his blocking and his pass-catching ability - are things that, with effort and a bit of time, can absolutely be corrected. RBs typically come into the league as one-dimensional and, within a few years, develop those other skills. Cadillac Williams is a perfect example. When he came in, he couldn't catch a pass or throw a block to save his life, but those things that were once weaknesses made up the majority of his value later on. I'm not saying that LGB is ever going to be Marshall Faulk, but all reports are that he has worked hard on his peripheral RB skills and has shone significant improvement in them. Remember, the coaching staff that talked so much about his weaknesses was headed up by Raheem Morris. And while I think Raheem could be successful one day, it is clear that discipline and teaching were not principles he practiced. It always felt to me like that staff wrote Blount off as unteachable from day 1. And this is a guy who came to the team at the last possible minute and didn't have an opportunity to learn those finer points of the playbook early on. And after that, it seems to me that no one ever took the time to try to teach him. Blount is extremely powerful, runs hard, works hard, and really seems to want to improve. I think that trading him could be a mistake for a few reasons. Scott, I normally follow your line of thinking, but there are a lot of logic issues with your points: 1) To compare having depth at RB to depth at QB is ridiculous. Unless you have Tim Tebow, a backup serves as purely a backup - someone who never sees the field unless there's an injury. Running backs are very different. It would almost as silly to compare the importance of a #2 QB to that of a #2 CB. 2) The Patriots and Giants example is foolish as well. If you want to argue with Schiano's obvious run-first mindset, then those points make more sense. The Pats and Giants built their offenses to throw the ball, a lot. So of course, for them, quality depth at RB is less important than it is for a team that proclaims to want to run the ball as much as the Bucs do. 3) Speaking of quality depth at RB, we've all seen that Mossis Madu is not a special player. While I would actually feel solid about Michael Smith as a #2 runner, his skill set is more similar to Martin's than Blount's. Mossis Madu doesn't even count as depth - he's kinda just there. So the depth at RB isn't so much that discarding Blount for a 2nd round pick (which seems optimistic to me anyways, considering the team's screaming about his struggles in the passing game for years) would necessarily be a "sure thing" kind of deal, although I think it would be worth considering. 4) A team that wants to run the ball 30+ times a game would get excellent value out of having a strong RB #2. Of course there are still those guys who singlehandedly carry the loads for their offenses, but we don't know if Doug Martin will have that kind of durability. Don't' forget, he took less serious hits in college than did most backs due to a few different factors. I think that DM is certainly our best RB, but LBG as a guy to carry the ball 10-12 times a game, and sometimes more, might well be worth more than a 3rd round pick. Lastly, I believe that Blount IS a guy who personifies the famed "Buccaneer Way". He didn't whine when the team took Martin, but instead viewed it as a positive. He is a hard-worker, and again, by all reports he has been improving in pass-catching and protection. He could definitely still improve in both of those areas and others as a runner, but he runs stronger than most backs in football and is somewhat elusive too. While he takes flack for a "bad" season last year, he averaged 4.2 YPC last year, a solid number - he just couldn't get enough carries (because of early deficits) to turn that into a big yardage number.
  • avatar

    Btw, sorry this is so long. I just had a lot of different thoughts. Scott, normally love your stuff, but had lots of problems with your reasoning for trading Blount. Thanks, and keep up the great work!
  • avatar

    That was me not Scott, but I respect your thoughts and opinions. You make some valid points. It wasn't my intention to say the Bucs should or shouldn't trade Blount, just pointing out some reasons why it makes sense to consider. And as far as Blount learning, it should have happened already in my opinion. He offers one thing – being a power back. I do think the Giants Patriots points were also valid. The Giants fully intended to run the football last season until injuries took a toll. Also of the top ten rushing teams in 2011, five didnt even make the playoffs. Again, I appreciate your thoughts man. Thanks for the feedback!
  • avatar

    Whoops, my mistake on identifying the author of those thoughts. I just got you two mixed up. First, before responding, I want to say how much I appreciate that the writers of Pewter Report take the time to respond to reader comments. It's so refreshing to be able to interact with authors rather than just other readers (which is cool too). The point about top 10 rushing teams and the playoffs seems to me to be a case against Schiano's offensive philosophy, a different point entirely. As far as Blount, I guess it's just a matter of opinion - everything that I have read and heard, including from PR, indicates that Blount has had a great attitude from day 1 with this regime. He has been working hard and has shown improvement, from what I understand. While I think it would be silly to think that LGB will ever be a leading pass-catcher among RBs, I think that he could be a guy that pulls down 30-35 catches per season if he was a full time back. If you remember, LGB said all last season that he was capable of doing more, but the coaching staff never gave him much of a shot to show it. It felt to me like they created this label for him and then forced it on him, rather than him really earning the one dimensional tab. I just think that a guy who is ready and willing to work hard, seems to have a team first attitude, and who can run the ball like he can easily has the ability to be a dual threat and is a great value to a team that wants to run the ball like the Bucs do...especially since, without him, we're one RB injury away from Mossis Madu being a significant piece of the offense. Thanks again for the interaction - as much or more than anything else, this openness between the staff and readers makes PR my favorite sports outlet period, including ESPN. I don't comment on a ton of stories, but I read them all and enjoy seeing back and forth between you guys and readers. I don't always agree with you guys, but the writing is consistently solid, the information is always fresh and exclusive, and it's obvious that you guys work your a $$ es off. Thanks a ton.
  • avatar

    Sorry again for the excessive length. I type quickly and tend to go until my thoughts run out, lol.
  • avatar

    One positive from last night... Freeman didn't look bad.
  • avatar

    I'd like to see Martin rip off a long run or two before discarding Blount Mark. Blount is a home run hitter -- whats the longest run martins had 30? And that might be pushing it. Where's the breakaway speed?
  • avatar

    Very good Article PR. Blount is trade bait and I agree that we need a legit back up QB. We also need a ORG, another DT so I hope we can work out a deal in trading Blount. He's a good runner, but not in Schiano's scheme. go Bucs!
  • avatar

    I consider Orlovsky a legitimate backup QB, at least relative to the other backups across the league. There are teams that are better off, but there are teams that are worse off, too. Orlovsky is, to me at least, a guy who can come in and consistently get through his first read or two and then check it down if need be. I'm not saying that he's what I want a season riding on, but what backup quarterback can you say you would feel good about that situation taking place with? There aren't many. I'm good with Orlovsky at #2.
  • avatar

    Full price for preseason game tickets is a joke. To pay full price for that c#%* is a shame.
  • avatar

    Madu? Please no. Blount? Yes, yes, yes. Why go backwards???? What is the mystery black mark within the team with Blount that even allows these conversations? I don't get it.
  • avatar

    Why would you want to trade Blount. He is a great running back. Use him like we used Alstott. Put him in, in the 3rd and 4th quarters when the other teams defense is tired. They are not going to want to tackle a fresh Blount. We need to build this team not weaken it by trading good players. A good team must have a solid 2nd string to be competitive. There are so many injuries that no team can expect to go a whole season without several injuries. The Bucs way of doing things the last several years has been to cut any 1st string player that has been supplanted buy a better player. That thinking is why the Bucs will not go to the playoffs this year or for a while if our thinking doesn't change. How good would Jeff Faine look as a backup right now. Instead we cut him. (he was just signed by another team). Cadillac would have been a great backup last year but we cut him. Barrett Rudd would have been a great backup last year but we cut him. The list goes on and on. Our starters are looking good but we have absolutely zero depth. A couple of injuries and we are done. When we won the Superbowl we had quality depth and we had backups that were making millions. You can't win a championship by being cheap. Stop cutting every starter as soon as he is no longer a starter and build a second string.
  • avatar

    Two things: One, we didn't cut Rudd, we let him go. Same eventual result, but very different. And judging by how he played in TN last season, the way teams ran on us with him in the middle, and the lack of warm reception he had in the FA market this past offseason, I think it's safe to say that he was not worth investing in for multiple years, which its what he wanted. Two, I'd say that the primary reason we let Faine go isn't that he would't make a serviceable backup, but rather than he had the biggest contract in football for a center and was playing more like a slightly better than replacement level guy. He was horribly overpaid when we offered him that contract back when he was thought to be a very good player, but once his play regressed, I'd guess that the front office found his contract was impossible to swallow. My issue with the O-line isn't that we released Faine - it's that we didn't go out and sign better depth, i.e. Jake Scott, who is still on the market btw.
  • avatar

    I am not going to over react to a preseason game in which I had no expectations. The team will be competitive this year and it is a work in progress. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    Very briefly, because I found the game so disappointing to watch......I thought Jamon Meredith was terrible. It's no wonder he keeps having teams let him go. No WAY he can start at G and I'm afraid keeping him as a back-up serves no purpose either. Despite his big night, I don't think Baker makes the team. I just don't think there's room there. I think the Buccaneers intend to keep Shipley as a Wes Welker type of slot receiver Josh Freeman can count on. That leaves Underwood in a tough spot though someone may pick him up. I think the Bucs would take a 2 for Blount but I'm not sure that would not be a mistake. Hell, after last night I'm not sure of ANYTHING!!! Good work discussing a very bad night of football.
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