SR's Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:FAB 1.
When you think of the upper echelon of NFL wide receivers names like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Houston’s Andre Johnson and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald come to mind. Some suggest that Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Atlanta’s Julio Jones are on the rise and that the young Pro Bowlers deserve to be included in that conversation, too.
And so should Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson.
Why isn’t Jackson’s name mentioned among the NFL’s elite receivers? He’s a three-time Pro Bowler (2009, 2011-12) and had six catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns while representing the Bucs for the first time in the NFL’s all-star game, which was won by the NFC, 62-35 last January.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jackson isn’t in a pass-happy offense with the likes of either Johnson, so he’s not going to get the same amount of opportunities to produce as those receivers. Jackson had a career season in 2012 – his first season in Tampa Bay – catching 72 passes for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns out of 147 passes that were thrown his way (those pass attempts also include uncatchable balls thrown in his direction).
Consider that Houston’s Johnson had 112 catches for 1,598 yards and four scores, but was targeted 164 times. While Johnson produced more catches for more yards – despite more opportunities, he also had half as many touchdowns (four) as Jackson (eight) and his 13.8-yard average is less than Jackson’s 17.8-yard average.
Detroit’s Johnson, who is nicknamed Megatron, is widely considered the best receiver in football, and was named the league’s third-best player on the NFL’s list of the Top 100 players of 2012. Johnson had 122 catches for 1,964 yards and five touchdowns last year, but was targeted by QB Matthew Stafford 205 times – 58 more times than Jackson.
It’s one thing for Jackson not to be mentioned in the class of either Johnson and Green or even Fitzgerald, who had a down season in 2012, catching just 71 passes for 798 yards (career-low 11.2-avg.) and four touchdowns despite being targeted 153 times. 11.2 avg., but shouldn’t he still be mentioned in the upper echelon with the likes of Brandon Marshall, Jones and Dez Bryant?
“Oh man, he’s definitely elite,” Gorrer said. “Vincent can do things that I haven’t seen another receiver do. He’s so big, but he can go down and dig the ball out on low throws. He’s so hard to cover because he’s so physical. And he’s fast. He gets down the field faster than a guy his size should.”
Jackson set Buccaneers records with a 95-yard catch against New Orleans last year and also totaled 216 yards against the Saints, which was the most receiving yardage in a single game by any Tampa Bay player in franchise history. But that didn’t get him much much publicity, and Jackson was only added to the Pro Bowl as an alternate when Atlanta’s Julio Jones had to bow out due to injury.
“I don’t know why his name isn’t up there with them,” Bucs center Jeremy Zuttah said. “We just have to do a better job of winning some more games and I’m sure that will happen. Teams that win get more notoriety. We just have to do a better job of winning games and getting better as a team.”
Here’s a list of the top receivers in NFL’s Top 100 players in the 2012. WR Calvin Johnson No. 3
WR Andre Johnson No. 14
WR A.J. Green No. 16
WR Reggie Wayne No. 21
WR Larry Fitzgerald No. 22
WR Julio Jones No. 26
WR Brandon Marshall No. 27
WR Dez Bryant No. 35
WR Roddy White No. 38
WR Vincent Jackson No. 52
It’s shocking to see that Jackson was ranked so low, especially since he caught more touchdowns than either Johnson, Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White last year, and put up more receiving yards than Green, Wayne, Fitzgerald, Jones, Bryant and White did in 2012.
Is Jackson really the 10th-best receiver in the NFL? Ask yourself this question. Would you take Wayne over Jackson? Would you take some guys with questionable character like Marshall or Bryant with similar talent to a leader with impeccable work ethic and high character like Jackson? Would you take White over Jackson in this stage of their respective careers? I wouldn’t.
In six years in the season, Megatron has a gaudy 488 catches for 7,836 yards (16.1 avg.) and 54 TDs in his career on 882 targets. By comparison, Jackson has 344 career catches for 6,138 yards and 45 touchdowns on 628 targets, which is 254 fewer balls thrown his way. Imagine if Jackson had similar opportunities to Johnson. What type of numbers could Jackson put up?
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Bucs wide receiver Tiquan Underwood said. “He’s a great player, a hard worker and he doesn’t mind flying under the radar. He just continues to work on his craft. He’s not mentioned with those guys, and it’s unfortunate. But we know he’s an elite player in this league. Man, the guy is a hell of a talent and the best thing about him is he’s a great teammate and he just continues to work.”
What may have hurt Jackson’s momentum as he headed towards superstardom was the fact that he was limited to just six games in 2010 after making the Pro Bowl a year earlier. Jackson sat out the first 10 games in a contract dispute and then caught just 14 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns in the final six contests that season.
Houston’s Johnson, Fitzgerald and Marshall have all posted six 1,000-yard seasons in their careers, which have spanned 10, nine and seven years, respectively.
Megatron has four 1,000-yard seasons in six years, while it has taken Jackson eight years to put up four 1,000-yard seasons. But what Jackson has going for him is his gaudy career receiving average, which is 17.8 yards and higher than that of Jones (16.2 avg.), Megatron (16.1 avg.), Green (14.9 avg.), Bryant (14.4 avg.), Houston’s Johnson (13.8 avg.), Fitzgerald (13.6 avg.) and Marshall (12.7 avg.).
What’s amazing is that Jackson, who is one of the biggest receivers in the NFL, has a slightly better average than two of the NFL’s fastest big-play wideouts in Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson (17.5 avg.) and Mike Wallace (17.2 avg.), who left Pittsburgh to play for Miami this past offseason.
“Just look at the averages,” Zuttah said. “Vincent’s definitely elite. He’s up there with Megatron when you look at the averages and the playmaking ability. He just may not get as many looks because our offense is different with Doug [Martin] and our running game. We just have to win games and the notoriety will come for Vincent.”
So where should Jackson rank? Both Johnsons have been so good for so long, and the same goes for Fitzgerald. I also think Green is an emerging elite receiver, and the fact that he had three touchdowns in the Pro Bowl and 11 TDs in the regular season only validates that. Personally, I would put Jackson as currently the fifth-best receiver in the NFL slightly ahead of Jones, Marshall and Bryant, but it’s hard to argue that he’s not in that upper echelon class.
“He’s a Pro Bowler,” Gorrer said. “He’s definitely in the conversation with the league’s best wide receivers. Why wouldn’t he be? I’m just glad he’s on our team and I only have to cover him in practice rather than on Sundays.”FAB 2.
After one week of training camp the clash for the Bucs’ third wide receiver is living up to the billing as one of the best battles at One Buc Place. Newcomer Kevin Ogletree is slightly ahead of incumbent Tiquan Underwood. Both receivers have received time with the first team, but Ogletree has taken more reps as the slot receiver alongside starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
Ogletree has been steadier in terms of catching the ball and making plays, but Underwood’s knack for the big play downfield with his speed is keeping him in the fight. Underwood, who has 39 career catches for 566 yards and two touchdowns with 28 of those receptions for 425 yards and both scores coming last season in Tampa Bay, wasn’t fazed a bit by the team’s decision to bring in Ogletree this offseason.
“It’s part of the game, Underwood said. “Competition brings out the best in players and Kevin and I understand that. It’s a battle, but we help each other. We’re teammates and we’re just trying to help each other with each other’s craft. At the end of the day, the best man will win.”
In fact, Underwood said that he and Ogletree get along quite well.
“He’s a very smooth receiver,” Underwood said of Ogletree. “We’re in the same year, actually we came out together [in the draft]. This is his fifth season as well. He’s very smooth, and played very well in Dallas. He fit right in as soon as he got here.
“The great thing about it is that competition brings out the best in players. He and I are actually in together when the [second-string offense] goes in, and it’s great, man. We just push each other to try and help each other on the field. May the best man win, but we’re just worried about getting better individually and collectively as a team.”
Each player has his own edge in the battle. While both players are 6-foot-1 and have similar stats over their four-year NFL careers (Ogletree has 57 catches for 730 yards and four touchdowns), Underwood played for head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers and has a year’s worth of experience in Mike Sullivan’s offense. Ogletree is the new flavor at One Buccaneer Place and has been with his position coach, John Garrett for the past four seasons in Dallas and all throughout his college career at Virginia.
“Being in the system one year helps, but at the end of the day, it’s all about performance,” Underwood said. “And we all know that it’s what you do on the field. They’re going to be critiquing us, and we just have to go out there and leave it on the field.”
Underwood is a more confident receiver this season than he was last year as he was trying to make the Buccaneers’ 53-man roster as a newcomer that was onto his third NFL team in four seasons.
“It’s confidence,” Underwood said. “After playing last year, getting a nice amount of reps with another year in this offense – it definitely helps your confidence. You’re more familiar with what Josh [Freeman] wants and what the offensive coordinator wants, so it’s just being familiar with the offense that really helps.”
After dazzling at the night practice last Saturday Underwood has missed three practices (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) with a hamstring strain. That has allowed Ogletree to increase his reps and also has positioned Chris Owusu, who was on PewterReport.com’s Top 10 Bucs In Training Camp during the first week, as a challenger for the third receiver role given his extra reps with Underwood’s absence.
Underwood should be ready for the first preseason game next Thursday against Baltimore when the competition for the third receiver job steps up a notch. While most look at the number three receiver as a slot receiver in Tampa Bay’s offense, the fact that Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams also see time in the slot forces both Underwood and Ogletree to learn how to play the slot, the split end and the flanker positions on offense.
“To be honest, I try not to label myself [as a slot receiver],” Underwood said. “Whatever I can do to help this team win I’ll do. Whether it’s inside or outside – at the end of the day as a football player you just want to play and help contribute.
“I just want to be more consistent when I’m out there, and also knowing exactly what the quarterback wants. There were plays last year I left out on the field where I was kind of iffy. So now I’m more confident and I know exactly what I’m doing so the quarterbacks can count on me.”
On Friday, Schiano said that he’s been pleased with the competition at wide receiver behind Jackson and Williams.
“It’s a good battle,” Schiano said. “We have a bunch of guys really fighting their tails off to be that three, and with Ti gone and down, other guys are getting reps. So it’s pretty good. And we’ll be the better for it once we decide who it is.”
Underwood knows that performing in preseason games is crucial, but even then it does not guarantee anything. Despite leading the Bucs in catches (nine), receiving yards (158) and receiving average (17.6) and returning a kickoff 39 yards, Underwood was inexplicably released in favor of Preston Parker, who did little during the preseason and was subsequently released a few games into the regular season when general manager Mark Dominik atoned for his mistake and re-signed Underwood. Because of that, Underwood doesn’t take anything for granted.
“Oh absolutely – after going through what I went through last year it was actually a blessing,” Underwood said. “It makes you appreciate being here and it also makes you work harder. So I’m ready to compete with whomever they bring out. It’s going to be a battle and I’m looking forward to it.”
In my professional opinion, Underwood has to clearly beat out Ogletree to win the job. If it’s close it will go to Ogletree.FAB 3.
While the competition is as good as expected at wide receiver this training camp, the camp battle at right tackle between Demar Dotson and Gabe Carimi has yet to materialize as some expected it might. Don’t count PewterReport.com in that mix. We believed Dotson would have a stranglehold on the starting right tackle spot due to the experience he gained in 15 starts last season, and having a year’s worth of experience in Mike Sullivan’s offense.
That, and an incredibly strong showing in the first week of camp where he was one of PewterReport.com’s top performers, has given Dotson a substantial lead over the heralded newcomer.
“It made me comfortable,” Dotson said of becoming a first-time starter last year. “I’m slowly getting more comfortable and more comfortable and better and better. I’m going to work because I compete within myself. It’s not competing against Gabe or anybody else. I compete within me.
“Gabe is a good player. He’s out here working just as hard as I am. It does push you, but like I’ve said a million times, with or without Gabe I’m going to work hard. With Gabe behind you it does make you work a little bit harder because you do know you have a guy that was a first-round draft pick behind you. That’s a number one draft pick – enough said.”
It’s amazing that Dotson, a supremely athletic former basketball player at Southern Mississippi has transformed his body by putting on close to 40 pounds of muscle through good old fashioned hard work and become a starting NFL tackle with just one year’s worth of organized football experience prior to coming to Tampa Bay.
“I came from being a basketball player to a starting right tackle,” Dotson said. “A basketball player like me, God gave me an opportunity. I value every day, stay humble and work. Just like God gave me this opportunity, I can lose it any day. I worked my tail off. I came in as an undrafted tryout free agent. I had to work my tail off. Tampa was patient with me – no doubt about it. But I had to work hard and grind every day.
“When I first got in here I thought I was way over my head. I had never played the position before and guys were way better than I was. I had to keep my faith. I pray every day and I’m strong into my faith in God.”
Bucs coach Greg Schiano has seen Dotson, who signed a three-year extension this offseason that will keep him in Tampa Bay through 2016, make huge strides in the offseason.
“He’s been very good,” Schiano said. “He’s just had this steady improvement and he just continues to make that improvement.
“He has to focus on his bending, no doubt. “But I think he’s improved at that, and then the height and length gives him a great advantage in pass protection. So there’s a little bit of a tradeoff, but I think he’s improved. He had a focused plan on what he wanted to get better at this offseason and he did.”
Dotson excelled in pass protection and that was one of the big reasons the 6-foot-9, 319-pounder with the huge wingspan took over for Jeremy Trueblood, who was becoming a liability on passing downs. While Trueblood was the better run blocker, Dotson worked on his craft and got better with his technique as the season progressed.
“Working on my bend and staying low because I’m 6-foot-9,” Dotson said. “It’s hard for a 6-foot-9 man to be low, so I have to work on my bend and staying low. That will help me in my run game because that was my biggest flaw in my running game because I didn’t stay low and I wasn’t powerful enough. I had to work on that and get more explosive in my legs. It will pay off.”
So far it’s paid off. Dotson has successfully kept Carimi at bay, and unless there is a sudden drop off in the former undrafted free agent’s play, he will continue to earn the opportunity to start at right tackle.
“We said at the end of the year, if he continues to make the improvement at the rate he did the first four years this guy is going to be special,” Schiano said. “He’s not there yet but he’s getting better and better.”
Dotson realizes he has the chance to be a special player in this league and his hard work will get him there.
“The goal now is to be the best right tackle in the league,” Dotson said. FAB 4.
Despite Demar Dotson maintaining an early lead at the starting right tackle position, Gabe Carimi isn’t going to go down without a fight. After attempting to overcome a knee injury during his rookie season in Chicago where he was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011, the former Outland Trophy winner is getting a fresh start in Tampa Bay to revive his NFL career. And he’s getting the help of his former offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who coached him into being an All-American at Wisconsin.
“It always helps to have a familiar face in your corner,” Carimi said. “I just need to keep working hard and going with what got me this far – hard work. Also recovering from my injuries is going to help me. I restarted too fast from that injury during my rookie year. Now I’m stronger.
“I just have to keep trusting in my ability. All the technique I did in guarding my leg last year I have to re-teach my body regular techniques now that I’m healthy.”
At 6-foot-7, 316 pounds, Carimi is a road-grader, whose style fits in well with Tampa Bay’s offense. So when general manager Mark Dominik had the chance to trade a sixth-round pick in 2014 for a former first-rounder.
“I think there’s no question we want to run the ball and we want to play action off that,” Carimi said. “That’s how it was at Wisconsin so it’s my style of play. That’s obviously why they have Bostad here, too.”
Carimi agrees with those who call Bostad an offensive line guru.
“He’s a technician,” Carimi said. “He is never going to let anyone get away with bad technique even if the result was good. Even if the result was good and you used bad technique he knows that you are eventually going to get burned. He’s going to hammer those techniques down.”
Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said that the Bostad connection was a huge reason why the team took a chance on trading for Carimi, who had been switched to guard and decided to hold out of the voluntary mini-camp.
“Well, the biggest thing is we have Bob Bostad on our staff, who coached him,” Schiano said. “He coached him to an Outland Trophy award. The guy was with him in the same room for four years, so that’s really the biggest reason we did it. We felt comfortable doing it because we had insider information. Because had you just ready the media stuff you would think, ‘Well, why did you do that?’ The other reason is, we were able to get him for a sixth-round pick. So the risk-reward was – what we thought – tremendous, and then with the insider information, really good.”
Carimi came from one of the strongest running teams in college at Wisconsin, and loves the fact that the Buccaneers have a premier running back to block for in Doug Martin.
“It’s always fun to block for a guy that runs really well and sees the holes,” Carimi said. “As a lineman you should never look who’s behind you. You should always look forward. But it’s fun to get those popped ones where you can get him up to the safety and he can keep going and extend the play.”
Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn raves about how well Carimi has been taught and how good of a grasp he has on the fundamentals.
“He’s a great technically sound guy,” Penn said. “Gabe has great technique. He’s a great player that is going to help us out a lot. He’s very technically sound. It’s hard, man. It took me years to get my technique down and I’m still working on it.”
Carimi said that was high praise coming from a Pro Bowl left tackle like Penn.
“He’s a good teammate and he’s a good leader,” Carimi said. “That means a lot coming from him. He’s been here and he knows how to work and how to get it done. He leads by example.”
Penn isn’t the only Bucs player that has made a favorable impression on the former Chicago lineman. Carimi said that Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has gone out of his way to make him feel welcome in the locker room.
“I think he’s an outstanding guy,” Carimi said of Freeman. “He’s real easy to talk to and he really welcomed me to the team. I think that helps with camaraderie and helps our team achieve its goal.”
Carimi’s personal goal is to beat out Dotson and become Tampa Bay’s starting right tackle.
“I’ve got to keep on working hard,” Carimi said. “I’m never focused on what’s going on [with depth charts]. Coaches are going to play the player they feel is best and gives them the best chance to win. Dot and I are working hard. I’m just working to be the best I can be and everything else will work itself out. Now if the best I can be is a backup, then I just have to work harder.”
Even though Carimi believes he is a tackle in the NFL after being relegated to playing guard in Chicago, his versatility is a huge plus for Tampa Bay. So much so that Schiano said the Bucs do plan on cross-training him at guard later this month in case he doesn’t beat out Dotson.
“We want to him to get the feel in our system of what it’s like to play tackle,” Schiano said. “And now, because he’s played some but he hasn’t played a ton in the National Football League, it’s not like you’re getting a six year vet and oh, let’s put him in there and plug and play and the move him over. We need to get him accustomed to our scheme and then we’re getting closer to where we’re going to start cross-training him a little bit.” FAB 5.
Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• What’s the difference between last year’s wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck and new receivers coach John Garrett? It’s the volume, according to Tampa Bay receiver Tiquan Underwood.
“Coach Garrett, he’s the opposite of Coach Fleck,” Underwood said. “Coach Fleck was more hands on, and real loud. Coach Garrett is more laid back and tells you exactly what he wants. He’s getting through great to us and the guys are adapting well to him.
“The best thing I would take from Coach Garrett is to enjoy every day, don’t take it for granted. He just says, ‘Enjoy every day. This is the day, guys – just rejoice in it.’ That’s what we try to do – just take advantage of every day.”
• Buccaneers center Jeremy Zuttah made a living in the early part of his career by being versatile. Zuttah has seen action in games at both guard spots, center and left tackle. Now he’s seeing Cody Wallace, who can play guard and center, move up the depth chart ahead of Jamon Meredith this year.
The fact that Davin Joseph is being held out of team drills due to his recovery from a season-ending injury last year has allowed Wallace to become a starter in August during practice.
“It’s great, invaluable experience for Cody,” Zuttah said. “You never know what is going to happen in the course of a season. It’s a long season. To have guys like Cody and Ted [Larsen] step in for Carl [Nicks] and play a variety of positions is very valuable to us.”
• In PewterReport.com’s opinion, the Bucs defense has been winning a few more practices than the offense since the start of training camp a week ago. It’s not uncommon for defenses to be ahead of offenses in training camp, but it’s a welcome sight for a pass defense that was ranked dead last in 2012, allowing an average of 297.4 passing yards per game.
“We want to take control out there and own the offense,” David said. “Everybody is working hard doing their jobs.”
• Bucs left tackle Donald Penn is thrilled with the job the Glazers and general manager Mark Dominik have done in acquiring high-priced, big-name, Pro Bowl-caliber talent over the past two years.
“The culture is changing, man,” Penn said. “Now it’s our job to turn it into wins. This season we have put a lot of pieces in place. Now we just have to go out there and do it. I’m very excited and I’m really happy. I’m very excited about this season. We’re going to surprise a lot of people, but I’m tired of talking about it. I can’t wait until we can go do it and stop all this talking.”
• Keep an eye on rookie tight end Tim Wright. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound former Rutgers wide receiver has handled the position switch quite well and has caught nearly everything thrown his way in training camp.
Don’t be surprised if he’s this year’s version of Danny Noble. Not to the point where he earns a spot on the 53-man roster, but sticks around for a developmental year on the practice squad. Wright gets open and catches the ball. He just has to work on his in-line blocking and add about 15-20 pounds of bulk next offseason to handle the rigors of run blocking in the NFL.
• Tampa Bay right tackle Demar Dotson does an eloquent job of summing up life in an NFL training camp.
“Training camp is hard,” Dotson said. “Your body hurts. Every part of your body hurts and you just have to push through it. You’re not always going to be perfect because you are in so much pain, but you have to keep grinding and grinding and grinding. If you get through this, the season will be so much easier.”
• Pewter Report's official Training Camp Get2gether will take place on Saturday, August 17 at The Grille at Westchase from 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. ET and feature special guest Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik along with Pewter Reporters Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook and new Bucs beat writer Gil Arcia. Dominik will be on hand to answer the questions from Bucs fans and talk about Tampa Bay's preseason game against New England from the night before.
“Once again, Pewter Report is very excited to have Mark Dominik as a guest speaker at one of our official Get2gethers,” PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds said. “We have been fortunate to have Mark out at our Get2gethers in the past and he’s always been a huge hit with our readers. Bucs fans will enjoy the opportunity to engage the team’s general manager in a question-and-answer session in the heart of the preseason, just weeks away before Mark sets Tampa Bay’s final roster. It should be a fun, interesting on August 17 at the Grille at Westchase.”
The Grille At Westchase, which is located at 13234 Race Track Road in Tampa, is the official home of all of the Pewter Report Get2gethers. Past guests from the two previous Get2gethers include Bucs free safety Ahmad Black and former Tampa Bay defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson in February, and Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman in April at Pewter Report’s 2013 Draft Party.
This Training Camp Get2gether event is free and open to ALL Bucs fans. However, the first 25 Pewter Insider subscribers in attendance will receive a FREE Pewter Report T-shirt.
There will be free snacks and soft drinks/tea, and discounted menu items and drink specials for all PewterReport.com visitors in attendance. The Grille at Westchase will be featuring $5 appetizers, including boneless wings, fiery shrimp, buffalo chicken dip, chili dogs and fries. Drink specials include $11 buckets of Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, and $5 margaritas.
As always, there will be some fantastic prizes given away, such as two tickets in Pewter Report's luxury suite to the Bucs' preseason finale on August 29 against Washington, an authentic Buccaneers helmet signed by legendary defensive back Ronde Barber and other autographed memorabilia.
While this Pewter Report Training Camp Get2gether event is free, space is limited and reservations are required.
Bucs fans and PewterReport.com visitors MUST RSVP by e-mailing
with their Pewter Report username and the number of people that will be attending.
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