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. STATING THE BUCS' CASE FOR BRINGING JOHNNY FOOTBALL IN TAMPA BAY
The Buccaneers have reportedly visited with six quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft class this offseason, and the fact that Tampa Bay plans on drafting a QB of the future is one of the worst-kept secrets in the league right now. The Bucs have visited with two groups of quarterbacks – those expected to be drafted in the first two rounds – Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, UCF’s Blake Bortles, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo – and those that are expected to be late round picks – Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and SMU’s Garrett Gilbert.
Conspicuously absent are the middle-round quarterbacks, such as Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. Evaluating the available evidence, the Bucs more than likely will draft a quarterback early – unless Tampa Bay is doing a really good job of disguising their true, targeted signal caller.
The way PewterReport.com sees it, the Bucs very well could be taking a quarterback in the first round, and it will either be Manziel or Carr – perhaps the two best-suited quarterbacks for Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith himself and for offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, whose system caters to strong-armed, accurate passers with mobility. The first case we’ll state is for who we believe to be the highest-rated quarterback in the draft – Manziel.
Smith loves players from the state of Texas. As PewterReport.com pointed out in its Bucs’ Pre-Draft Press Conference Observations story
earlier this week, Smith, a native of Big Sandy, Texas, had a hand in drafting seven players from Texas schools while in Chicago. And a couple of key free agent signings – quarterback Josh McCown and left tackle Anthony Collins – were both raised in the state of Texas.
That, and the reality that the Bucs need a quarterback for the future as McCown turns 35 on July 4, coupled with the fact that Smith hired former Texas A&M strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy, puts Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner in play for Tampa Bay. And not just with the seventh overall pick.
If there is a quarterback to be taken in the top 5 picks as Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland – who pick first, third, fourth and fifth overall, respectively – need quarterbacks, Manziel is the one most likely to be selected first because of his uncanny penchant for making plays. The reality is that if the Bucs love Manziel – as they are supposedly do – he might not be there when the team picks seventh overall.
That means the Bucs may have to trade up to get him. While there has been plenty of speculation that Tampa Bay may have an interest in trading down in this draft, Smith even suggested the notion that he and general manager Jason Licht may move up.
“It has been documented – and we think if that’s the case then – there are a lot of good players a little bit further down in the draft,” Smith said. “At that seventh spot, though, we feel that we’re going to get a pretty good player there. And how about moving up? What do you think about that?”
Smith raved about Manziel after attending his pro day back in March, and Licht had nothing but nice things to say about the player known as “Johnny Football.”
“Very impressive interview,” Licht said. “We had a great day with him. Lovie and him both have Texas roots. We enjoyed every minute that he was here. Sharp guy.”
Manziel scored a reported 32 out of 50 on his Wonderlic intelligence test, the highest of the draftable quarterbacks this year. Able to step in to the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman, Manziel has the smarts to pick up a complex offense like Tedford’s fairly quickly, although he would likely be on the bench learning from McCown in 2014 if he winds up in Tampa Bay.
With a 69-percent completion percentage, while throwing for 7,820 yards with 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions during his two-year Texas A&M career, Manziel has the accuracy Tedford’s offense demands. Running a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash with 2,269 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground, including 1,410 rushing yards and 21 TDs as a Heisman Trophy-winning freshman in 2012, it’s safe to suggest Manziel has the desired mobility Tedford likes in quarterbacks.
If the Bucs decide to move up to get Manziel, the word in NFL circles is that St. Louis might be willing to trade down a few spots for a second- and a fourth-rounder in addition to swapping first-round picks. That may be more than Tampa Bay wants to surrender, so don’t be surprised if Mike Glennon, last year’s starting QB, is thrown into the mix with a second-round pick – instead of a third- or fourth-round pick (which Tampa Bay doesn’t have this year) – to move up.
While most thought Glennon could be traded on draft day to help Tampa Bay acquire an extra pick after the Bucs secured a QB in the first or second round, the North Carolina State product could actually be part of a deal to help them acquire a his replacement – the team’s new quarterback of the future. Glennon, last year’s third-round pick, is at least worth a third-round pick this year given his starting experience and production, if not a second-rounder despite a deep quarterback class in the draft.
Former Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano was prepared to make Glennon the starting quarterback of the 2014 season had he not been fired after going 4-12 in his second season in Tampa Bay. The early intel from the scouting department on the quarterback draft class of 2014 was that there weren’t many signal callers that were better than Glennon for the Bucs’ downfield passing game.
In 13 starts during his rookie season, Glennon completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards with 19 touchdowns, nine interceptions and an 83.9 QB rating. Those were better-than-expected numbers for Tampa Bay’s third-round pick from a year ago.
But as fate would have it for Glennon, Schiano was fired and he was immediately demoted to backup status by Smith in favor of McCown, a veteran who played for him in Chicago from 2011-12 and threw 13 touchdowns and just one pick last year under new Bears head coach Marc Trestman. While Schiano thought Glennon was the ideal fit for his offense, Smith thought differently about how Glennon would fit in Tedford’s offense, which calls for a lot of quick passes on smoke routes, slants and bubble screens. The strong-armed Glennon has a bit of a wind up release and is slower in his pass set up than McCown is.
Mobility is also a key issue working against Glennon, who was slow to escape the pocket last year at times and was sacked 40 times. He rushed for 37 yards on 27 carries (1.4 avg.) and lacks the nimbleness that McCown, and several other quarterbacks in the 2014 draft, such as Manziel and Carr, possess.
There are plenty of issues and concerns surrounding Manziel, including his slight build (6-foot, 206 pounds), his poor throwing mechanics and footwork, his propensity to leave the pocket too early and scramble, his reputation as a partier and his fame and notoriety, which makes him an instant media rockstar – and potential distraction – to the team that drafts him. Manziel is not right for every offensive system nor is he right for every franchise.
But his positives are immense. He has an obvious, outward desire to win and he’s the ultimate competitor. Manziel is accurate, has a strong arm, a superb football I.Q. and an uncanny improvisational ability to make dazzling plays. He’s used to the spotlight and starting early in his career, and he’s already handled some negative press in college about some off-field issues and his cocky demeanor. And there’s not a more dangerous scrambling QB in the draft than the Aggies star.
Smith has the commanding presence and leadership style where he could handle Johnny Football. Tedford is tough enough to coach him up, rein him in and fix Manziel’s mechanical flaws.
McCown is confident, humble and ego-less enough to be a great mentor to Manziel for a year or two until he’s ready to start.
In most NFL cities, perhaps even Tampa Bay, there will be a clamor from fans that want to see Manziel start from Day One. But McCown is seasoned enough to let calls for Manziel roll off his back, and Smith is steady enough to stick to the plan and let Tedford and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo teach him the offense and improve some of the flaws in his mechanics behind the scenes in 2014.
And the Bucs locker room is full of high-character leaders that could help keep Manziel in check as he becomes an instant millionaire and even more famous as an NFL player. Professionals like McCown, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy would all serve as great role models for Manziel.
The Glazers would love adding Manziel’s star power to the franchise. A player like Manziel fills Raymond James Stadium, and No. 2 Buccaneers jerseys become the rage in Tampa Bay and around the country as the team instantly become more interesting and relevant around the league. In 2015, the Bucs likely get more prime time games – and some home ones – because the nation wants to watch Johnny Football to see what he’ll do next. No other player in this draft outside of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or perhaps Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins could have an impact in Tampa Bay the way Manziel could with the Bucs fan base.
If all it costs is a second-rounder and Glennon, the Bucs would be hard-pressed to pass that deal up if they indeed like Manziel, and can find a trading partner in St. Louis, which is looking for another quarterback, or another QB-needy team, such as Jacksonville, Cleveland or Oakland.
If you are looking for the quintessential read on Manziel prior to the draft, Peter King’s article is by far the best and most comprehensive.FAB 2. TEDFORD MAY PREFER CARR TO DRIVE HIS BUCCANEERS OFFENSE
While trading up for Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is intriguing and that topic has likely been broached at One Buccaneer Place this offseason, Tampa Bay would be using two draft picks and giving up a quarterback in Mike Glennon that has the trade value to create another draft pick for the Bucs – all for one player in the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner. But what if Tampa Bay trades down from the seventh overall pick to select Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr a few spots later with Detroit at No. 10, who want Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans to pair with Calvin Johnson?
In that scenario, the Bucs get their quarterback of the future in Carr, and perhaps an extra third-round pick from Detroit, in addition to keeping their own second-rounder instead of surrendering it to St. Louis to move up. With Carr in the fold, Tampa Bay can also trade Glennon for another third-round pick, giving the franchise potentially five picks in the top 100 players.
How might the following first three hypothetical rounds look for the Buccaneers in this scenario? What about this:Round 1 – Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Round 2 – Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
Round 3 – Colorado WR Paul Richardson
Round 3 – Florida State LB Telvin Smith
Round 3 – North Dakota State OL Billy Turner
Carr doesn’t move the needle as much with Buccaneers fans as Manziel does, but if he came in a draft that featured two speedy, productive wide receivers, a blazing fast coverage linebacker that can back up Lavonte David on the weakside or contend with Mason Foster at middle linebacker, and a versatile offensive lineman that can back up either tackle position and could emerge as a starting guard, wouldn’t that help?
In most NFL circles, Carr has used a great week of practice at the Senior Bowl and a sensational pro day to vault ahead of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who had a bad pro day, and become the third-rated passer this year behind Manziel and UCF’s Blake Bortles. Carr gets knocked by some NFL scouts and draft pundits for his penchant for throwing a lot of dink and dunk passes in Fresno State’s spread offense the last two years. But Tedford’s Tampa Bay offense has some spread elements in it, so Carr is actually tailor-made for it.
Carr passed for a Bulldogs-record 5,082 yards in 2013, which was 420 more yards than any other quarterback at the FBS level last year. He threw 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. In his four years at Fresno State, Carr threw for a school-record 12,842 yards, 113 touchdowns and just 24 interceptions, while completing an average 68 percent of his passes during his final two seasons.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Carr provided to be just as good of an athlete as Manziel, running a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, which was one-tenth of a second slower than the Texas A&M star’s 4.68 time. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Carr, who is two inches taller and nearly 10 pounds heavier than Manziel, did post a higher vertical jump with a 34.5-inch mark.
Throw in the fact that the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator has known him since he was six years old when Tedford coached his brother, David, at Fresno State, and Tampa Bay’s interest in Carr becomes more pronounced. Like Manziel, Carr visited One Buccaneer Place in April, and before that he was tutored this offseason by Tedford after Fresno State’s regular season concluded prior to Tedford taking the Bucs job.
His production aside, there is a lot to like about Carr. He’s got a fiery demeanor similar to that of Johnny Football that will ignite his teammates and the fan base whenever he becomes a starting quarterback in the league. Carr also has a high degree of confidence, proclaiming himself to be the best quarterback in the draft, but doing so with the right mix of swagger and humility.
Carr is a man of high character and morals. He’s already married and has a son, so there isn’t any concerns of the type of partying or losing focus on football that may pitfall Manziel as it did former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman.
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is a man of faith, as is Carr, and that don’t discount this despite what you make think of Christianity and religion in general. As much as being a Texan helps Manziel in Smith’s eyes, Carr’s strong religious background appeals to Smith in the same way.
In fact, Carr’s humble, yet competitive faith-driven personality is almost a carbon copy of that of McCown, who Smith absolutely loves. Carr would be the perfect pupil to be tutored by McCown, Tedford and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo during the 2014 campaign.
Another positive to drafting Carr and choosing him to be the future franchise quarterback is the fact that there wouldn’t be a rush to get him on the field right away. If McCown has a bad game or two early in the season, fans, media and sports talk radio would clamor for Manziel if he were the Bucs’ first-round pick. Because he would initially be a less popular pick, there wouldn’t be a groundswell of support to throw Carr into the starting lineup as a rookie and that could aid in his long-term development.
While the Bucs may be more intrigued by Manziel’s unique playmaking ability the cost may be too great to move into position to draft him, and the opportunity to trade up to get him may not even materialize. In fact, with the prospect of trading down a few spots and acquiring an extra pick or two in the process, drafting Carr may not be a bad consolation prize. In fact, Carr may be the most ideal quarterback for Tampa Bay.FAB 3. ANTHONY HAS SEEN THE EXPLOSIVENESS AND DIVERSITY OF TEDFORD’S OFFENSE FIRST-HAND
New Tampa Bay wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins played for offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford when he was the head coach and playcaller at the University of California from 2004-08. After the team’s initial three-day mini-camp last week at One Buccaneer Place, Hawkins said Tedford’s offense was much different than it was when he was a receiver for the Golden Bears.
That’s true. Since Hawkins left Cal after the 2007 season the spread offense took the college football world by storm. Tedford, who is known as a pro-style offensive coordinator, began incorporating some spread concepts into his offense and his playbook has continued to evolve over the years.
Buccaneers defensive back Marc Anthony, who played for Tedford from 2009-12, saw that transformation first-hand on a daily basis in practice while at Cal.
“It’s all over the place,” Anthony said. “You’ve got your spread plays, your two-back plays, you have 11 personnel, you’ve got the wildcat – you’ve got everything. We had everything when I was in school with him. It’s really hard to defend because he’s so diverse. With all the weapons we have on offense, I can’t wait to see what he does with them.”
Although it was just one mini-camp and the Bucs defense was only in Cover 1 or Cover 2 defenses, quarterbacks Josh McCown, Mike Glennon and Mike Kafka carved up Tampa Bay’s secondary in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills as receivers were running wide open at times. At this stage of the offseason, Tedford’s offense appears to be ahead of Leslie Frazier’s defense.
“Everything – smoke screens, bubble screens – everything that you can possibly imagine Coach Tedford has in his playbook, and he’ll use it,” Anthony said. “I know exactly what he can do. He likes to put points up on the board. I’m excited for the season to come to see what he does.”
As impressive as the passing game was during the mini-camp, the running plays that were executed produced huge gains as Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps all stood out.
“That’s what he does; he tries to use the running game to open up the pass game as much as possible,” Anthony said. “So, you know we have a stable of running backs along with some good wide receivers. Hopefully it goes hand in hand with each other and the running game will open it up.”
Anthony admits he was shocked to be reunited with his former college head coach at the pro level, but said the Buccaneers are getting a great offensive mind in Tedford, who is a huge asset to the coaching staff.
“Yeah, it was a surprise to be back with him, but he’s a good guy,” Anthony said. “Obviously he recruited me coming out of high school and just the fact of having him on the staff is a big plus for us. I know what his offense can do. We have the talent to execute it. Just to see him to get another chance, another opportunity to coach football is great.”FAB 4. SR's THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS' UPCOMING DRAFT
This is the last SR’s Fab 5 column prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, which begins next Thursday night. Here is a collection of some of my pre-draft thoughts as it relates to the Buccaneers:
• I think Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said it best when he said that there is likely a wide variance of the top 10 players listed on each NFL team’s draft board. This is one of the hardest drafts to do mock drafts for in recent memory. There is a consensus that says the top players – South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack – will likely go in the top 10, but that’s only five players. There is no consensus on the other five, and there is no consensus that certain players are destined to go to certain teams in the top 10 in 2014 as has been the case in recent years.
• I understand that Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans is regarded as a stud and a Vincent Jackson clone, but I’m wondering if the Bucs really want another Jackson in Jeff Tedford’s offense where the emphasis is on speed over size. While Evans was very productive, he wasn’t very versatile, always lining up on the right side of the formation and running mostly go routes with some occasional slants and posts mixed in.
I’m looking at the fact that the Bucs visited with several receivers that ran a 4.4 or under in Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief, Clemson’s Martavis Bryant, Colorado’s Paul Richardson and Kent State’s Dri Archer, and I see that Evans was timed at 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. I wonder if he has the elite speed Lovie Smith is looking for and if he’s a great fit for Jeff Tedford’s offense.
If the Bucs want a big receiver, why not draft Bryant, who is 6-foot-4 in the second or third round? In fact, with the majority of the quarterbacks the Bucs have brought in being first- or second-round prospects, it seems likely Tampa Bay will head in that direction early. With the receivers the Bucs brought in for visits, it seems like the Bucs are thinking of taking one in the second or third round, as opposed to drafting Evans in the first.
• While guard may seem to be a huge pressing need for the Buccaneers, Smith never took a guard higher than the fourth round in his nine years in Chicago, and that was Boston College’s Josh Beekman in 2007. Bucs fans look at the current depth chart and see an injured Carl Nicks, Jamon Meredith, Oniel Cousins and Patrick Omameh and understandably don’t get too excited. Yet I can’t see the Bucs addressing guard higher than the third round this year with maybe North Dakota State’s Billy Turner or LSU’s Trai Turner, especially if the Bucs target quarterbacks and wide receivers in the first two rounds.
• Speaking of Nicks, I know the Bucs are hopeful that he returns to the starting lineup in July by the time training camp rolls around, but I have my reservations. The Pro Bowl guard has had two surgeries on his toe and has some nerve damage as a result. He’s also a massive, powerful man at over 350 pounds. I just don’t know if he’ll be able to recover the quickness and athleticism he once had, which is a must for the offensive linemen in Tedford’s offense.
One of the reasons why Donald Penn was let go was because he always struggled with his conditioning and his weight. Most of the Bucs’ current offensive linemen are svelte and athletic looking. Nicks is now the oddity in the offensive line room.
And if he does return to the field for training camp, can he return to his old, dominant self? Last year, Davin Joseph returned from a season-ending knee injury in 2012 to start all 16 games at right tackle, but was a shell of his former self and was cut this offseason for poor play last year. In fact, he remains unsigned to this day. At age 31 his NFL career could be over. Could the same outcome be on the horizon for the 28-year old Nicks?
• Drafting a player like Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald makes a lot of sense to me as a surprise first-round pick because of the importance of the under tackle in the Tampa 2 scheme. If something happens to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy and he’s lost for the year, the current options Leslie Frazier has to choose from are Clinton McDonald, which would prompt Akeem Spence to step in at nose tackle, or Matthew Masifilo. Drafting Donald in the first round still allows for the Bucs to target a quarterback in the second round, perhaps Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, and a receiver in the third round, such as Richardson or Archer.
The same scenario applies to weakside linebacker Lavonte David, who is the team’s best playmaker. If David goes down with an injury a lot of takeaways and sacks are lost from the defense as the weakside linebacker is a vital cog in the Tampa 2. The fact that newcomer Damaso Munoz, who came to Tampa Bay from the CFL, is the current backup to David is a scary proposition. That’s why drafting a fast, athletic linebacker like Florida State’s Telvin Smith makes a lot of sense in the third round for Tampa Bay to prevent a huge drop off in speed and big plays on defense.
• I see a team like Cleveland sign quarterbacks Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen this close to the draft and I remember how the signing of veteran Byron Leftwich in 2009 didn’t do anything to stop Tampa Bay from drafting quarterback Josh Freeman in the first round about a month later. The Browns still need a quarterback and will likely take one in the first round – either with the fourth overall pick or with pick No. 26.
• I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buccaneers did not draft a running back or a tight end this year. Tampa Bay’s running back stable is loaded with Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, Mike James and Jeff Demps. It seems as if the depth chart is already set for 2014. At tight end, Brandon Myers and Tim Wright are two competent starters, and the tight end position is typically a complimentary role rather than a featured role in Tedford’s offense.
Besides, Tampa Bay has Tom Crabtree on the roster, in addition to Luke Stocker and Steve Maneri. There is adequate depth for training camp. If the Bucs do draft a tight end it could be Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz in the middle rounds, Bowling Green’s Alex Bayer or Cal’s Richard Rodgers in the late rounds.FAB 5.
Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• While the Bucs have spent a lot of time studying the Texas A&M trio of quarterback Johnny Manziel, offensive tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans this offseason, keep an eye on Aggies linebacker Nate Askew. With a crowded field of wide receivers at Texas A&M headlined by Evans, Ryan Swope and others, the 6-foot-3, 241-pound Askew was asked to move to linebacker for his senior season after catching nine passes for 95 yards and one touchdown during his career as a backup.
As a linebacker, Askew started all 13 games and recorded 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and three interceptions, his first of which was returned 30 yards for a touchdown in a 65-28 win over Sam Houston State. However, his last interception, which was his final collegiate play, was a key pick to seal Texas A&M’s 52-48 comeback win over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Perhaps just as importantly, Askew ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and had a 38-inch vertical jump at the Texas A&M pro day. Both the 40-time and the vertical jump measurement were the best in College Station that day – and Bucs head coach Lovie Smith was there to see it live. Askew could be headed to Tampa Bay as a seventh-round pick or as a priority undrafted free agent signing.
• For those that don’t think too much of quarterback Mike Glennon and his subsequent trade value, the guess here is that he could possibly fetch a second- or third-round pick based on the potential he showed during his rookie season. While there were a few games Glennon didn’t play too well, most NFL observers note that he played behind a porous offensive line, especially late in the season.
That offensive line was so bad it has since been dismantled in Tampa Bay. Against St. Louis, Glennon completed 16-of-26 passes (61.5 percent) for 158 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but was sacked seven times by the Rams defense.
But other film shows that Glennon shined against Seattle, completing 17-of-23 passes (73.9 percent) for 168 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 overtime loss. Two weeks later in the Bucs’ 41-28 win over Atlanta, Glennon completed 20-of-23 passes (87 percent) for 231 yards with two scores. A week later in a 24-21 win at Detroit, Glennon completed 14-of-21 passes (66.7 percent) for 247 yards with two TDs.
There’s an argument for Bucs general manager Jason Licht to make on draft day that Glennon, a former third-round pick, is worth at least that – if not more – because of his NFL playing experience, which was quite good for a rookie last year. Keep an eye on New England as a possible trading partner.
Former Bucs head coach Greg Schiano is buddies with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and will likely end up on his staff next year if he doesn’t get back into college coaching. Schiano loves Glennon and has undoubtedly talked him up to Belichick. The Patriots need a long-term answer at the quarterback spot and an immediate backup for Tom Brady as Ryan Mallet is entering a contract year. It could be a good fit for Glennon.
• Tampa Bay strongside linebacker Jonathan Casillas is the veteran of the linebackers room despite being just 26 years old. As he did a year ago after coming from New Orleans, Casillas signed a one-year deal with the Bucs this season to return to Tampa Bay.
Casillas saw how quickly the Saints rose up and won the Super Bowl once the right pieces were in place, and envisions the same thing happening in Tampa Bay under new head coach Lovie Smith, who is definitely one of those pieces.
“It can happen very quickly, it doesn’t take two years now [to turn a franchise around],” Casillas said. “It takes a couple games. We’re looking to be that team this year. We know we have the talent in the locker room. I think it was just a matter of who was running the helm. With that being said, I think we have the best guy out there [in Smith]. I think he’s one of the top guys in the game in general.
“Me, being a fan of the sport, taking a step back away from football, being a player –and a fan – [I like] what he brought to Chicago and the defense that they ran. I’m a defensive guy … so just watching [Bears linebacker Lance] Briggs and those guys on film, I feel that we have similar guys of that caliber and also what the Bucs used to run. It’s the same defense. We got the Warren Sapp [in Gerald McCoy], we got the Brooks now [in Lavonte David]. [Smith] knew I was coming back, so that’s why he came back!”
• Bucs fans can typically hear me every Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. ET on the Kirk and Dinger Morning Show with Kirk McEwen and Chris Dingman on 98.7 The Fan. Be sure to listen in next Thursday, which is Draft Day, but also tune in to the Fan Interference Show from 9:00 a.m. - noon on 98.7 The Fan on Monday as I will be joining Justin Pawlowski and Jim Lighthall for three hours of Bucs and NFL Draft talk. Should be a real fun time. If you call the studio, please mention you're a PewterReport.com fan and let's talk some Bucs football!
And stay tuned for wall-to-wall Bucs Draft Previews all weekend long and into next week with PewterReport.com's famous Bucs' Best Bets, as well as PewterReport.com's latest and final 2014 Bucs' 7-Round Mock Draft, which is coming next Wednesday.
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