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June 6, 2014 @ 7:30 am
Current rating: 3.67 Stars/6 Votes

SR's Fab 5 - 6-6

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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Who is the happiest coach at One Buc Place? Will Tampa Bay be using a FB this year in Jeff Tedford's offense? What new role does Shelton Quarles have in the Bucs' brass? Which O-lineman is emerging as a leader? Get the answers and more insight on the Buccaneers in this edition of SR's Fab 5.
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. SPENCER IS THE HAPPIEST COACH AT ONE BUCCANEER PLACE
In last week’s SR’s Fab 5, I analyzed Tampa Bay’s running backs position, which should be the most lively, competitive and entertaining training camp battle this summer at One Buccaneer Place. This week, I had a chance to speak at length with new Buccaneers running backs coach Tim Spencer about his players. Needless to say, Spencer, who coached Pro Bowl halfback Matt Forte for years in Chicago, had a huge grin on his face during the entire interview.

“I feel very fortunate to have the group of guys that are working their tails off,” Spencer said. “Doug [Martin], Bobby [Rainey] and the group that has been here – they’ve been doing an excellent job hustling. I don’t even have to tell them. They have that part down. They work their butts off. I wish I could keep all of them because all of them are doing good.”

The group Spencer is talking about consists of Martin, the Bucs’ first-round pick and leading rusher in 2012, and Rainey, who led the Bucs in rushing last year with 532 yards and five touchdowns, along with Jeff Demps and Mike James – both of whom joined Martin on injured reserve by midseason – and newcomers Charles Sims, the team’s third-round pick in 2014 and Brendan Bigelow, an undrafted rookie who played for offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at the University of California.

“We have the young guy, who is going to be able to push everybody,” Spencer said of Sims. “I like it. It’s probably been the best group of solid three running backs that I’ve been able to coach since I’ve been in the league. I’m looking forward to the competition, but we’re out here in shorts. You get to see the athleticism more so than you can see them with the pads on where they can make people miss and bounce off tackles. That will come, but I like the athleticism that I do see.”

Martin has been talked about as the team’s starter this year due to his past accomplishments, but he also has the most trade value in case other backs, such as Rainey or Sims rise up in training camp and show Spencer, Tedford and the new coaching staff that there may not be as much separation in talent as once thought. But for right now, Martin is the lead back and has shown no ill effects from season-ending shoulder surgery from a torn labrum he suffered at Atlanta.

“I like Doug’s work ethic,” Spencer said. “He’s a physical player and he wants to be right. He doesn’t make many mistakes. I love his work ethic.”

Interestingly, Spencer spoke the least about Martin compared to the other running backs on Tampa Bay’s roster. An NFL source told PewterReport.com that Martin may dance too much in the backfield for the Bucs’ liking, and that the running back’s hesitation last year was just as much to blame for his underwhelming production – 456 yards rushing with just one 100-yard performance – as the poor play of Tampa Bay’s offensive line. The source said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Martin got traded prior to the start of the season.

While that may not be out of the realm of possibility – how many believed starting quarterback Josh Freeman would be jettisoned before Week 6 last year? – it is too premature to see that scenario playing out. If Martin plays well in the preseason regardless of how other running backs fare he’ll stick around because of his talent and experience.

While he wasn’t overly complementary of Martin, Spencer had plenty to say about the Bucs’ other running backs, especially Sims, who starred at Houston and West Virginia and had 3,465 rushing yards and 2,108 receiving yards and scored 51 total touchdowns. Spencer attended Sims’ pro day this year and raved about him to the other coaches and Tampa Bay’s scouts.

“I like the athleticism and I like guys that can do a little bit of everything,” Spencer said. “Is he going to block the way he runs? Is he a tough guy? Do you see the same type of effort when he’s running the ball as you see when he’s pass blocking. That’s one of the things. Now if he’s a great runner and his pass pro isn’t great you still take him, but I like that he took pride in all of his game. That was very important to me.”

Heading into the draft with Martin, Rainey, James – who all had one 100-yard rushing game in a Buccaneers uniform last year – Tampa Bay was set at running back, but couldn’t pass on the versatile Sims, whose receiving ability and running style reminded both Spencer and head coach Lovie Smith of Forte.

“He has qualities that Matt has,” Spencer said of Sims. “He had played receiver, which can be an advantage for us because we can get a couple different guys in the backfield. It’s nice to have that guy. We can do a lot of different personnel things with a guy like that. He has those qualities that Forte has and I like that.”

If he gets the offense down during the preseason he could be the primary back that splits carries with Martin this season. Although Smith has said he prefers to have a workhorse back, his assistants believe in having a rotational system at running back and playing with as many as three rushers.

“I think you have to alternate,” Teford said. “J.J. Arrington was 2,000 yard rusher – and then we had a couple of times where we had guys with 1,000 yards a piece, but I don’t believe one back can carry the load, it’s just too physical. I think you need to have probably two to three guys that bring different things to the table, but I think you need to at least have two to be able to spell them here and there and keep them healthy and that type of thing. That’s the goal – try to create some depth right there where there’s not a drop off when one guy goes in, the other guy comes out, there’s no drop off, we just keep going.”

Spencer agreed that the Bucs need a one-two punch in the backfield.

“I like keeping guys fresh – there’s no question,” Spencer said. “You do need two guys in this league, obviously. But if a guy is going good, you let him go. If he needs a blow, you take him out. I do like to have two guys, but numbers-wise, I don’t know how many we’ll be able to keep. Special teams will obviously play a role in that.”

If Martin and Sims end up being the top two running backs, players like Demps, Rainey, James and Bigelow likely need to shine on special teams in order to secure a roster spot.

“[Including fullbacks] I think I have eight guys in my room and I’m going to be trying to keep them all,” Spencer said. “I’m hoping that I get four or five and I’m hoping that they play teams. If one of those guys is a core special teamer and he’s a running back, that’s great for our situation. If you’re not a one or a two, and you are a three or a four – you’ve got to be a core [special teamer].”

Demps, a former Olympic sprinter and silver medalist, is expected to make the roster because of his role as a utility back. Tedford and Smith put a premium on speed and Demps is believed to be the fastest player in the NFL. In addition to seeing time as a slot receiver and a running back catching passes out of the backfield, Demps will factor into the kick returner competition.

“He’s really fast,” Spencer said. “He’s ultimate fast. He can really run. You sit there with amazement just to see the burst he has. You see guys thinking they are going to cut him off and they whiff. I like what I see in Jeff because Jeff really works.

“We have some things we need to do to really harness that speed and get him in the right situations, but he can definitely help us out. You do see that speed because he has Olympic speed, but the young cat is a fast kid. Bigelow is fast. Sims is fast. These guys are fast on the field.”

Spencer was also pretty high on two young rushers, Rainey and James, that emerged late last year when Martin went down with his shoulder injury.

“Bobby is a guy that can do everything and do everything well,” Spencer said. “I like that guy. He kind of reminds me of the Adrian Peterson we had in Chicago, but with a little more shake.

Peterson was the Bears’ second- or third-string running back for several years and backed up the likes of Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson and Forte.

“Adrian could do everything – he blocked well, he was a smart football player and he was in the right place and he could catch the ball. He could do it all. You’ll find a spot for that kind of guy.”

James, who is being tried as a personal protector on punt in addition to being a contender in the Bucs’ backfield, has also caught Spencer’s eye. James has added nearly 10 pounds of muscle this offseason without sacrificing any of his speed.

“I call him ‘Big Back,’” Spencer said. “He gets downhill quick and I like that. He’s about 230 pounds and he’s smart and physical. He’s got enough wiggle. He doesn’t have a lot but he’s got enough. He goes hard and you’ll get out of his way.”

Bigelow, the newest running back in Tampa Bay, is sidelined with an injury right now, but displayed some skills that make him a perfect fit in the Bucs’ offense during the rookie mini-camp.

“He brings speed, he has good hands and he has been in the system,” Spencer said. “He’s got a little hamstring issue now, but when he gets back in hopefully that carryover he’ll have from knowing the system will help because he does have speed and really, really, really good hands. It will be interesting. It’s a deep spot and it’s good.”

With six halfbacks that could ideally play in Tampa Bay’s offense, Spencer knows that the Bucs will be cutting a couple of good players in September prior to the start of the 2014 regular season.

“If those guys are doing well, they’ll do well [elsewhere],” Spencer said. “If it doesn’t work out here, they’ll do well somewhere else. I like what I have. I can’t wait to see these guys perform. It’s going to be fun. I just hope they all stay healthy and they all have an equal chance to get out there and do the things that they can do.”

The Bucs certainly don’t mind going into training camp with such depth at running back, especially due to the fact that the team was hit with so many injuries at the position last year with four rushers on injured reserve.

“This is my deepest running back class I’ve had,” Spencer said. “I’ve had some good ones, but this is probably the deepest because it’s deep! It’s deep to the very last guy for a spot. It’ll be interesting in camp.”

FAB 2. FULLBACK IS A DYING POSITION IN TAMPA BAY AND THE NFL
The Bucs didn’t have much interest in re-signing Erik Lorig, the team’s starting fullback in the offseason – not just because Lorig was making just over $1 million in 2013, but because the position is becoming devalued across the NFL and in Tampa Bay. The NFL has become a pass-first league and putting an extra wide receiver on the field has become more important than having a lead blocker, especially with the spread offense with single-back sets becoming more prevalent in pro football.

“Fullback, what’s that position?” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith joked at the NFL Owners meeting in Orlando this spring. “For us, we think that it is a position. I know as you look on our roster right now, but as a general rule, the fullback position is a position that is being pushed aside a little bit because of what type of guy you have to have at that position. I think there’s still a place for it, but that guy has to be able to do multiple things.

“You’re not going to have a two-back set that often. So you have to warrant him dressing, so he has to do more things like I said. Those things are normally special teams. You have to have a certain type of guy that can be a big lead blocker. You have other options at lead blocker, too. You can put other positions there, too, whether it’s a big offensive guard, a big offensive lineman, he can take some of the lead plays also. With your fullback, you want him to be versatile enough to go outside and not just line up in your traditional fullback position. That’s a hard guy to find.”

The Bucs had three fullbacks on the roster for a brief period of time this offseason, but cut Josh Baker after a few weeks, leaving holdover Lonnie Pryor and newcomer Jorvorksie Lane as the two lone lead blockers in Tampa Bay. Not only are Pryor and Lane battling each other for one roster spot, they are also battling some tight ends for a place on the Buccaneers, too. In single-back sets, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will have his tight ends motion into the backfield as an H-back to the wing position to lead block for the halfback.

It would not be a stretch to see the Bucs keep four running backs and four tight ends rather than a fullback this year, even though that’s not how position coach Tim Spencer, a former fullback himself, wants to see it go down.

“You can use a tight end [to lead block], but it’s different,” Spencer said. “The H [back] is different than the F [back]. He can do some of those things, but in the down-home, dirty running – isoing the linebacker at the line of scrimmage – that’s different when you are five yards deep. It’s easier when you’re up there at the line of scrimmage. When you are coming from five yards distance, now that’s a collision.

“Obviously we would like to have one of those guys (Pryor or Lane), but that guy has to be able to play teams. You have to be able to do more than bang people. He’s got to be able to catch the ball. He’s got to be an athlete and at least play special teams. I’m hoping our guys can be able to do that so we can have that guy when we want to run it and smash it.”

The Buccaneers’ running game features different personnel groupings, but only a few feature a fullback. Spencer said that in order for Pryor or Lane to stick on the 53-man roster they will have to display versatility on offense and special teams.

“It’s very important for us to have a fullback,” Spencer said. “We like a big guy like that in the run game. That guy has to be able to play special teams, he has to be able to knock people out and catch a flat route. He has to do some more things like go out wide – not go down the field, but other things.

“I think Jorvorskie can do that, but I just haven’t seen those guys on teams. We won’t know until the pads come on this summer.”

Lane, who is 258 pounds, was a running back at Texas A&M years ago and can run the ball as well as block, although he likely won’t touch the football unless it’s as an outlet receiver. He’ll need to impress as a lead thumper.

“I think he can cover them up,” Spencer said. “He’s pretty big.”

Pryor, who is more svelte at 229 pounds, has more speed and may be able to be more of a factor on special teams covering kicks and punts. Unlike the team’s halfbacks, fullbacks like Pryor and Lane haven’t had much of an opportunity to strut their stuff during the OTAs and mini-camps, which are padless and non-contact.

“It’s tough, especially for the fullbacks,” Spencer said of the on-field work during the offseason. “You can see the running backs – the tailbacks – because they do a little more things and are put in positions where they can make plays. The fullback makes his bread when you put the pads on. There aren’t a lot of things for him to do and show his athleticism except for the drills. But I do like what I see in the drill part of it.”

FAB 3. EXAMINING QUARLES’ NEW ROLE WITHIN THE BUCCANEERS ORGANIZATION
A lot of savvy Buccaneers fans and PewterReport.com visitors noticed that Shelton Quarles received a promotion according to the front office roster on Buccaneers.com. I interviewed Quarles this week to find out what his move from director of pro scouting to director of football operations was all about.

Quarles will essentially serve as head coach Lovie Smith’s right-hand man the way Paul Kelly served Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, the way Jay Kaiser filled that role with Raheem Morris and the way Kevin McConnell assisted Greg Schiano over the past two years.

But there’s a twist with Quarles. He’ll still be serving the team as a pro scout and talent evaluator and he’ll also report to the team’s new general manager.

“I would say that’s a fair assessment,” Quarles said. “Being able to coordinate things with Lovie and our general manager Jason Licht. I think it’s a good opportunity for me to communicate quite a bit with the league and get up to date with the policies. The personnel side of things, to a certain extent, is pigeonholed into looking at players and not having too much communication with the league. Whereas now with the expanded role and responsibilities, I have the chance to communicate with people I’ve never communicated with before and become familiar with a lot of different things as it relates to compliance with the league. I’m excited about the opportunity. It’s a good thing.”

The Buccaneers have done a lot of shuffling in the front office since Smith and Licht took over in January. Gone are director of player personnel Dennis Hickey and director of college scouting Eric Stokes along with several of the team’s college scouts, recently replaced by Jon Robinson and Mike Biehl, respectively. Scott Cohen has been elevated to Quarles’ former director of pro scouting position when the former Buccaneers linebacker from 1997-2006 was given a promotion.

“It was a combination of Jason and Lovie thinking this would be a good fit with my knowledge of the organization and that particular role,” Quarles said. “I’ve watched from afar, of course, not knowing the definite policies, but knowing what needs to be done on a day in, day out basis.”

For Smith, who coached Quarles when he was Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach from 1995-2000, the previous relationship he had with his former pupil made him the obvious choice as his prime assistant.

“There’s definitely an extra level of trust or trust in general, knowing what kind of man he is,” Smith said of Quarles at the NFL Owners Meeting. “I have leaned on Shelton quite a bit, getting his expertise. He’s been here a while. He knows all of the players. When you come in new, you have to trust someone. … He has been very helpful to me in the transition and I didn’t expect anything else.”

The fact that Quarles will now be on the practice field on a daily basis rather than confined to his office to watch tape of potential free agents from other teams will help him better scout the existing talent on the Buccaneers and identify the team’s needs.

“It gives me an opportunity to see it from their vantage point with my personnel background and knowing what type of players fit in our league and work well within our organization and what that looks like,” Quarles said. “From the players side, knowing how those guys communicate amongst each other, knowing that will help as well.

“I’m excited about the organization. I was talking to my wife earlier and she said, ‘You bleed pewter and red.’ I feel the same way. I’ve been with this organization for 17 or 18 years. There’s no other place I’d want to be. If it had to happen and I had to move on, then so be it. But I love Tampa. My kids were born here. I love the people. We enjoy the area. The Glazers have been loyal to me. It all started with Malcolm Glazer hiring Tony Dungy.”

Quarles, whose 985 tackles rank fourth-highest in Bucs history, spends the majority of his time right beside Smith, a man he has learned from and admired for years. Quarles marvels at how Smith’s knowledge of the game and about being a damn good head coach has grown exponentially over the years.

“We have a lot of meetings together and we go over lots of [league] rules and responsibilities,” Quarles said. “Just listening to Lovie talk in the meetings we’re in whether he’s talking about the equipment guy or somebody with their contract or somebody that we want to bring in, he is someone that is well versed and well rounded in all aspects of being a head coach. It’s fun listening to him talk and listen to him make decisions and the reason why he made them. He’s gained a lot of knowledge over his years as a head coach, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him to develop a great football team.

“We start off meetings about getting to Phoenix [for the Super Bowl]. That’s our goal. We want to get there and win another championship for our organization.”

As a Pro Bowl middle linebacker in 2002, Quarles was a vital member of the Buccaneers’ victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. By now working directly with both Smith and Licht, Quarles is not only enhancing his own experience as a vital member of Tampa Bay’s front office, he’s also in better position to help build the right Buccaneers roster that will return the team to it’s winning ways.

“That was a fun time,” Quarles laughed. “We need to get a few more of me out there and we can win another Super Bowl.”

FAB 4. COLLINS EMERGING AS A LEADER ALONG TAMPA BAY'S OFFENSIVE LINE
With the departure of left tackle Donald Penn, right guard Davin Joseph and center Jeremy Zuttah, the Buccaneers lost more than just a lot of experience along the offensive line. Tampa Bay also lost a lot of leadership on offense.

Penn was the outspoken leader of the offensive line – and at times the offense – while Joseph was among the most respected Buccaneers and perhaps the team’s best leader by example. Declining play once both players turned 31, combined with a 4-12 record in 2013 and high salaries in 2014 led the Bucs to cut both Penn and Joseph, in addition to trading the underachieving Zuttah to Baltimore.

Tampa Bay’s vacancy at left tackle and center have been filled by Anthony Collins and Evan Dietrich-Smith, respectively, while the team is still looking for a guard to replace Joseph. More importantly, both veteran linemen have stepped up to fill the leadership void that the heavy turnover in the offensive line room created.

“Coach Hop (offensive line coach George Warhop) said it the first day,” Collins said. “Everybody on the O-line is a leader. We’re a leader for the whole team. The whole ‘C’ (captain patch) on the chest thing doesn’t matter. We’re the O-line. We need to come first.”

Warhop is a very demanding type of coach that seems to fit Collins’ desire to lead the team.

“To be honest with you, I think we determine the team,” Warhop said of his offensive linemen. “I think how my guys play and how they practice has a great effect on the whole team. So if the third group doesn’t perform well in the preseason, how are you going to evaluate the third group of receivers, running backs, or whatever? If we’re not practicing well against our defense, how are you going to evaluate the linebackers and the [defensive] linemen? So I firmly believe we are the [key] to us being successful, selfishly or not.”

The duo of Warhop and Collins is a match made in heaven. The athletic left tackle and his position coach share a feisty attitude that borders between cocky and confident.

Collins is essentially a slimmed down version of the talkative Penn when Penn was in his prime. When the former Bucs left tackle was on top of his game he brought a real swagger to the offensive line and was able to go toe-to-toe with some of the game’s best pass rushers like Jared Allen, Osi Umenyiora, DeMarcus Ware and Will Smith and shut them out. The team hopes the 28-year old Collins has the same kind of physical makeup to have that level of success in Tampa Bay.

Collins has played well for stretches in Cincinnati at both right tackle and left tackle, which is where he ended the 2013 campaign, but has yet to go an entire season wire-to-wire for 16 games as a starter. That’s something he’s looking forward to proving he can do in Tampa Bay.

“Be a man,” Collins said when asked what it will take to be a starting left tackle for the Buccaneers. “First off, you have to be a man. A lot of people are uncomfortable at that position. I’m very comfortable at that position. You’ve got to be a man and prove it. Down in them trenches you can’t be soft. Once you’ve been a man, everything else will fall into place.”

The first thing that Bucs fans will notice about Collins is his fit and trim physique compared to the large, sloppy body that Penn had at times when struggling with his weight. Because Tampa Bay will be running a more up-tempo offense under new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, the team’s offensive linemen like Collins must be in peak physical shape from a conditioning standpoint.

“Our strength coach, Coach K (Dave Kennedy), he’s getting us in shape,” Collins said. “He’s making sure that the tempo is feasible. He’s working us all through the summer to make sure we’re ready to go.”

Warhop has already seen Collins’ body become even more conditioned over the past couple of months.

“He’s doing a nice job in the weight room, his body has changed based on what Dave’s doing with him in there,” Warhop said of Collins. “He’s done a nice job here. It’s always a process, but he’s embracing it and doing it right more and more every day, which is what I want. I’m really impressed with him. He studies his butt off. He does not want to make a mistake, and that goes a long way. If I didn’t trust him, he would not be here. So we have a lot of faith in him and that’s why he’s here and in that position.”

No unit has gone through the type of transition that the offensive line has this offseason in Tampa Bay with 10 of the team’s 15 linemen being either imported through free agency or the draft. Collins said that despite all of the new faces the offensive line unit has come together quickly.

“I didn’t know anybody,” Collins said. “The first day I had to know everybody. Once they got to know me and I got to know them it made it real easy.”

As much of a leader as Collins has already become during the offseason, he defers the top ranking leadership role to veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who has taken One Buccaneer Place by storm with how connected he has become to each and every unit on offense. McCown has quickly earned the respect of veterans and rookies alike and everyone has marveled with how quickly and effectively the Buccaneers offense has fallen in line behind him.

“He’s a real leader,” Collins said. “He’s a veteran. You can’t question that. As far as his play, it’s going to speak for itself. But as far as him being a leader, he’s all we need.”

FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:

• Don’t be surprised if the Buccaneers are without a 1,200 rusher despite the expected emphasis on the running game this year. The reason is because Tampa Bay’s rushers will be splitting carries this year more than ever. If the team rushes for a collective 1,800 yards as it did in 2012 when Doug Martin rushed for 1,454 yards during his Pro Bowl season, expect the distribution of yards to be quite different in 2014.

Tampa Bay’s leading rusher might barely top 1,000 yards, while the primary backup contributes 500 yards and the third running back chips in 300 with the carries being divided up between three runners. The carries have been even more split up during this offseason among the team’s six running backs in an effort to give each runner a chance to show he knows his assignments and display his athleticism.

In addition to trying to showcase each halfback, Buccaneers running backs coach Tim Spencer is also making sure his stable of rushers has fresh legs heading into August.

“I try to make sure I don’t wear out the group so that we’re healthy heading into training camp,” Spencer said. “We’ve been really splitting the reps up. If you ask Doug, he’ll say he wants more reps, but you have to pull back with that guy – all the guys really.”

• Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo aren’t the only ones who remembered undrafted free agent running back Brendan Bigelow’s big game against Ohio State in 2012. Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer saw Bigelow rip off 160 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries two years ago.

“I saw that live because my son, Evan, is a starting receiver at Ohio State,” said Spencer, who also played for the Buckeyes. “I was out there that year for the game and I got to see him live and in person.”

No wonder the speedy Bigelow ended up being signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent.

• Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has the final say when it comes to adding players in free agency and the draft, but when it comes to the final 53-man roster head coach Lovie Smith has final say over the team’s personnel. Thus far, Licht and Smith have seen eye-to-eye on personnel matters and they already have a strong rapport that will help both men be on the same page when it comes to roster cutdowns in September.

But there will be another decision-maker that will have an incredibly strong influence over the final roster, and that’s special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea. With the final depth chart spot in most units coming down to how those reserves perform on special teams, O’Dea, who has coached with Smith before in Tampa Bay and in Chicago, will have a lot of input over the final 10 percent of the roster.

Smith trusts O’Dea implicitly and the special teams coordinator could be the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to deciding if the Bucs will keep three or four tight ends, five or six wide receivers, nine or 10 defensive backs and whether Tampa Bay keeps a fullback or not.

• George Warhop is as pleased as any NFL offensive line coach can be with his unit considering that the OTAs and mini-camps are non-contact practices without pads. Warhop is integrating 15 offensive linemen, including 11 that were not on the team’s 53-man roster last year, into Jeff Tedford’s new offense.

“They’ve all done a nice job,” Warhop said. “I’m really, really pleased. They come out here, they work every day. I can’t compliment them enough about their effort out here in the OTAs and before that in the phase two work, they’ve worked their tail off. They’ve been very responsive to what we’re doing. Jeff’s offense is different from most NFL offenses in terms of how we communicate and they’ve embraced that. We have very, very few mistakes. So I’m excited about all the new guys.”

With Anthony Collins locked in at left tackle, Evan Dietrich-Smith anchoring the line from the center position and Demar Dotson entrenched at right tackle, all eyes remain on the two guard positions, which currently don’t have a starter.

“I will just say they’re all doing a nice job,” Warhop said. “We’re rolling several guys in there at guard, there’s probably six or seven guys playing guard. And at this point, I can’t say there’s a whole lot of separation because we’re not in pads. But they’ve all done a nice job.”

• And finally, we have some exciting news to share. We will be having a pre-training camp Pewter Report get-together at Keel & Curley Winery, the official winery of PewterReport.com, in Plant City, Fla. on Saturday, July 19 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. But this isn’t just any ordinary get-together.

The PewterReport.com editorial staff, including yours truly and editor-in-chief Mark Cook, will be on hand to answer any Bucs-related questions, in addition to a Q & A session with Tampa Bay tight end Tim Wright, who will be available to take pictures and sign autographs. But wait, there’s more.

The PewterReport.com visitors in attendance will be able to take a group tour of the Keel & Curley Winery and do a wine tasting of some of the most delicious wines you’ve ever tasted for just $5. That’s half off for PewterReport.com fans, and it’s a great activity to do with your significant other.

If wine is not your beverage of choice, Keel & Curley is also home to Two Henrys Brewing Company, so there is plenty of beer to sample and drink, too, amid all of the Bucs knowledge that will be flowing. I highly recommend The Standard chocolate stout. Stay tuned to the front page of PewterReport.com next week for more details on this July event.

Before I let you go, please help out our good friends and business partners, Keel & Curley Winery, by signing this petition to help them save their wine-tasting room. It will only take two minutes of your time and I would greatly appreciate it.

The Keel family is absolutely great and has been a real asset to the Plant City community for well over a decade with their blueberry farm and winery. Thank you in advance for helping with their petition and feel free to share the link with others and encourage them to sign it, too.

Last modified on Friday, 06 June 2014 07:14
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    One question...how long ago was it that the vast majority of us felt the O-line was the strength of the team? Perception's not always reality. I'm ready to see what we presently have and hopefully pick up depth in key areas as some of the higher paid players begin to be released.
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    Wow... Even just a amall mention of the possibility of a trade has everyone up in arms... Crazy... But in reference to that possibility just to chime in... If we did consider trading him it would have to be worth it... We would have to get a starting caliber OG and/or a high draft pick next year like a 2nd...! I would really like to see both Martin and Sims on the field at the same time but in all honesty Sims is the future starting RB... So if we could trade Martin for a starting caliber OG now is the time... But I would not trade him just for the point of trading... Just because we are fat at RB...
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    ILoveMeSomeFire; exactly.
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    Horse, I believe timing is everything in life, maybe it's McCown's time too. For the off season I don't know what else the man can do to ease your fears. From everything we're hearing he's got this offense by the B#ll's. He's been all we could've wished for, leading off field work outs before OTA's started, are you kidding me? When was the last time we had that around here? The leadership of McCown has taken the building by storm, Collins, McCown is the real leader around here. So unless you want someone who can fart sparks, I don't know what you're worried about. He's been great for us so far.
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    Here's my big concern and it really isn't getting an OG via a trade'; it's McCown? I am not comfortable with him as our starter. The only history is most recent with a half a season from last year and present OTA's. We're putting big trust in that small part of his history as a player.
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    I think you’re right surferdudes! Carl Nicks and the huge power blockers of the past are on the way out according to John Madden of Oakland Raider fame. Dan Pompeii did an interview and Madden gives his opinion of how the game has changed. In Madden's opinion, short, quick passes have become the solution to pass-protection problems. "It used to be, 'Block the blitz, and account for everyone,'" Madden said. "Now, it's 'Don't account for anyone, and just throw it before they get there. Take care of the double-A gaps, don't let someone come free up the middle' -- and you can do that with shotgun." Madden further believes that as the passing game has changed, so has the blocking game. He notes how often linemen use two point stances instead of three, and how they block with their hands instead of their shoulders. Even their shoulder pads have become much smaller, and they don't use arm pads anymore. But most linemen wear big gloves that look like they could be used in MMA training, because they help with punch. The run game used to be about drive blocking and double teams. Today on most of the runs, you just direct a guy or redirect a guy or you try to cut a guy off, try to invite a guy off the field, knock him off and run inside of him. This might be the key to Tedford’s offense. It might also explain why the entire O-Line was changed, what kind of linemen they’re looking for, why they like the people they have, and why Carl Nick’s future may be doomed with the Bucs. Anyone wanting to read Madden’s complete take on today’s game can do so in your spare time at the link below! http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/78391872/john-madden-nfl-raiders-coach-player-video-game-icon-hall-of-fame#!VREWr
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    We're not trading Martin. We're not trading for a guard. The Bucs starters as of now on the O line will be fine. If L and L placed a high value on the position they would've drafted one higher. Instead they went late round pick, and undrafted free agents. The good news unlike the past they brought in five rookie linemen. The plan seems be to develop them with good coaching. If you look at the starting group they average, 28yrs of age, 6years in the league, 6'4", 312lbs. They're of the same ilk, so I think under Hop you'll see them jell quickly. Having a real offensive cord that stresses getting the ball out quick, with a grown up at Q.B. instead of a kid on meds can only help them succeed. Don't stress, this group will be fine.
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    Scott - I enjoyed the read, but I'd consider trading Martin now to be a huge mistake. A proven early rd draft pick w/ star power on a rookie contract. It's hard to build actual (not paper) depth by jettisoning solid young starters for older potential starters. Is Martin a reasonable price to pay for what will likely be an average OG that will have to learn the offense & gel with the existing unit at this stage? Isn't OG the position that so many wouldn't burn an early rd draft pick on? But we'll trade one we hit on for it..?
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    That was funny Horse. I must admit when I read Scott's remark about his "source", I wondered if it was a "Horse (source) with no name". I agree that Doug Martin has more trade value than the other running backs and is probably doomed since I have his #22 jersey; but he is the only "proven" running back on the roster. Yes, James had a couple of good games as did Rainey, but I'd be concerned if we traded another 1000 yard ball carrier and hope the "committee" could fill his shoes. Next year might be a different scenario.
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    Scubog, I completely agree with you, but unless we see a miracle happen with Nicks we have to get another OG. I also feel that the Bucs want to get bigger at running back and want to keep another bigger back than just Sims. I don't believe we have a choice here. My source did say that his foot is huge and he is not putting much pressure on it because of the pain involved. What does that tell you? A go if he injects the foot to numb it and lose what agility he has,or play with severe pain and still have agility problems. He's not playing this year, probably never and will go off in the sunset with a huge a large pay off of insurance money. Now this was two plus week old news and most everybody now knows that information.
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    Decent rookie year? What are you on crack. How soon people forget how great he was. Martin was second in the whole league in total yardage 1900 plus. Unbelievable to even think of trading our best player on offense. I guess KC should trade Charles after his decent season last year. What the hell does Martin have to do around here to get some respect!!!!!!
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    Thanks for the thoughts Scott -great read as usual. More importantly than the article, and even more importantly than the Bucs, today marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the great crusade...a tremendous thank you to all of the WWII vets, especially those that went ashore in Normandy on this date in history...we'll never repay the debt, but we'll never stop trying...
  • avatar

    What is this nonsense about trading Doug????? Trading our best RB does not make any sense. I will sh*t my pants if he isn't getting 250 carries/year. He's a natural born running back and has the best all around skill set of not just our RB's but of all our offensive skill positions. Turn on the Oakland film lol. 1) Doug 2) James 3) Rainey 4) sims . It's looking like demps and Michael smith are gone unless they find a way to contribute. I loved earnest byner last year, he was a great RB coach. Wish we would have kept him. @ alldaway- clearly you must not watch the games b/c Martin had 1900 yards from scrimmage, how was that a "decent year". Martin epitomizes a bell cow back, strong and stocky with a sick stiff arm and great in pass protection. All other RBs on the roster are unproven
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    Great article as usual Scott. I especially was excited to hear all Warhop had to say and it is all positive. If anyone can get our Guards all ready to play at a very high level, it is Warhop, so I don't worry about it. I know Meredith has been getting in the best shape of his life and he will do a very good job on the RG position. The only problem I have with the draft is when the Bucs took their two late round no names for the OL, there was a very good Guard from Stanford still on the board and another Guard who was thought to go in a much higher round still available too, though I don't recall his name. Hope it wasn't some of the scouts that got cut who rated the two OL we took instead.
  • avatar

    Martin gets traded ? Oh great. Let's trade another starting running back for a sixth round pick. Can we please stop giving away all the starting talent ? This organization has never been able to show that they can get quality players or picks for starters.
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    Insane. Martin had a phenomenal rookie season and everyone sang his praises. Maybe last season the OL, which was horrible, was the reason Martin had to dance in the backfield so much. Trading Martin is insane. He's a quality RB in this league.
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    Scubog; before you say it, I'll say it? I am not Scott's source. It just seems logical that in order to get a decent OG, we will have to give up a good player. It doesn't mean it will be Martin or Clayborn, but they are the only proven players where we have depth and their salaries are reasonable to make a trade. Another spot is Safety, but out starter salaries are way to high for a reasonable trade. Lets don't get too excited about McCown yet. He has a long history of being a good back up, but so-so as a starter. Last season half was the exception and he played good. No matter what, this is still a better team than last year.
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    Great Fab 5 Scott, but i’m not going to waste any time thinking about the possibility of a Doug Martin trade. When PR floated the opinion of an unnamed NFL source, in the following paragraph they quickly said that if Doug plays well in preseason that they didn’t believe he would be traded either, so nothing to see there. Be wary of unnamed NFL sources – kinda easy to say anything if you don’t have to be accountable for what you’ve said! Along that same line, I’m giving Nate Davis of USA Today who predicted that the Bucs would go 3-13 a pass for such a horrific prediction. Turns out ole Nate served in the artillery division of the US Army. I thank Nate for his service, but knew it was a shell-shocked opinion when I first saw it. Go Bucs!
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    Great Fab 5, as usual! I can't remember the Bucs ever having such a deep RB unit. Saw several YouTube clips of Bigelow. He looked awesome, but may not even make the team. It's likely the Bucs will try to stash one of the current RBs on the practice squad.
  • avatar


    Nice Fab 5 with a lot good useful information in it. I'm glad the Bucs brass have not made made up their minds on Martin and traded him because I think the jury is still out on him. I don't put too much stock into the way Martin and the O-line started last year because many of the teams they went up against turned out to be fantastic run stoppers over the course of the season. Martin ran well against the Saints and Patriots who were average run stoppers, but the Jets, Cardinals and Eagles all finished in the top 10 in terms of run defense. I think we need at least one more full season to see how many yards Martin averages per carry. We also need to see how his catching and pass protection measure up over full season; they were both poor last season.
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    Martin is a very good pass catcher but he isn't a workhorse back as he fatigues too easily. Thus, why he was so inconsistent even during his decent rookie year.
  • avatar


    Great article Scott, I'm very excited about the July get-together and looking forward to seeing you and Mark again.. Thanks for having this at such a great place, on our side of the world!!
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