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November 9, 2012 @ 8:00 am
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2012 Bucs Midseason Awards Issue

Dominik’s Vision For Bucs Offense: The Tampa Bay Colts

WRITTEN_BY Scott Reynolds Scott Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

Publisher
Through the draft and free agency, general manager Mark Dominik has built a high-powered offense in Tampa Bay that resembles the Indianapolis Colts in their heyday.
Following Tampa Bay’s surprise 2010 season in which the Bucs surprised the NFL with a 10-6 season, I spoke with Bucs general manager Mark Dominik about what he liked about the team moving forward. Naturally, Dominik pointed to the offense.

Second-year quarterback Josh Freeman had just thrown a career-high 25 touchdown passes with only six interceptions for the Buccaneers. Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams was 36 receiving yards shy of 1,000 and his 11 receiving touchdowns set a new franchise record.

Running back LeGarrette Blount, Dominik’s prized waiver wire claim just after training camp that year, had just rushed for 1,000 yards while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Tight end Kellen Winslow had once again led the team in receptions with 66 catches for 738 yards and five touchdowns. Secondary receiver Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick had 25 catches for 395 yards and a pair of scores while averaging a team-high 15.8-yard average.

Dominik likened the collection of Tampa Bay’s offensive weapons to a young Indianapolis Colts team that in its heyday had Peyton Manning throwing to the likes of wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark, while handing the ball off to Edgerrin James. In Dominik’s mind, Freeman was Manning, Williams was Harrison, Benn was Wayne, Winslow was Clark and Blount was James.

It all sounded good until the next year when Freeman threw 22 interceptions and 16 touchdowns and Williams endured a sophomore slump, catching 65 passes once again, but for only 771 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. That’s 193 yards and eight touchdowns less than he achieved during his rookie season.

Winslow caught more passes – 75 to be exact – but his petulant whining for the football caused Freeman to force more throws his ways and the result was a higher number of interceptions. Meanwhile, Blount slumped like Williams, rushing for 226 yards and a touchdown less than the year before. Benn only showed marginal improvement with 30 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns and his development seemed to plateau.

All of a sudden, Dominik’s vision of the Tampa Bay Colts became quite blurry. While his confidence in Freeman never wavered, he was a bit concerned about Williams as he witnessed another high-profile Bucs wide receiver, Michael Clayton, have a fantastic rookie season in 2004 and then follow it up with a sophomore slump the next year. In fact, Clayton never lived up to the numbers he put up as a rookie.

Dominik was less sure about Benn, who was coming off an ACL tear in 2010 and didn’t post greater numbers in 2011, and Blount, who had ball security issues all of a sudden after a rash of fumbles at the end of last year. He knew the Bucs needed another running back that offered more versatility than Blount, and a true experienced, primary receiver that could replace Winslow as Freeman’s go-to guy and better complement Williams.

When Dominik hired Greg Schiano to replace Raheem Morris in January, Schiano expressed his vision for the offense was to establish a strong, physical running attack and take more shots down the field in the passing game. After meeting with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan prior to free agency and the draft, Dominik and Schiano knew what pieces of the puzzle the team had to add.

In order for Dominik’s vision of the Tampa Bay Colts to come to fruition, wide receiver Vincent Jackson had to be acquired in free agency – no matter the cost – and the Bucs would have to take a running back in the 2012 NFL Draft that happened to be well stocked at the position. Jackson was signed to a five-year, $55.5 million contract and he has had a profound affect on Tampa Bay’s offense.

Jackson has been everything Tampa Bay has expected, as he has caught 31 passes for 710 yards and six touchdowns through eight games, averaging 22.9 yards per catch. The big-play receiver has caught four passes longer than 40 yards, including a career-long 95-yarder against New Orleans.

Dominik shrewedly traded back up into the first round to acquire the running back that the Bucs really desired in Doug Martin with the 31st overall pick. After a slow start Martin has come on, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown at Minnesota, in addition to catching three passes for 79 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown, he had a sensational homecoming when he returned to his native Oakland last Sunday. Martin rushed for a team-record 251 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns against the Raiders to put his season totals at 794 yards and seven touchdowns – both statistics lead all rookie rushers.

Dominik also wanted to take advantage of the new rules in the collective bargaining agreement that allowed first-round picks to be signed to five-year deals rather than the four-year deals that players drafted in rounds two through seven were obligated to be signed to, which is why he targeted the Boise State running back in the first round.

What that means is that Jackson, Martin and Freeman will be around for at least the next four years after the 2012 season concludes. Yes, Freeman’s contract expires after the 2013 season, as does the contract of Williams, but if he keeps performing the way he is right now there is no chance Dominik will let Freeman get away – placing the franchise tag on him if extending his contract after the 2012 season happens to fail.

Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2010, is only set to make $575,000 in 2013 and he believes he is underpaid. Sources tell PewterReport.com that he will be seeking a contract renegotiation after the 2012 season, especially since he is having a great year. Unless it’s a reasonable deal where Dominik can take advantage of Williams’ anxiousness to get a pay raise and get a below market value deal that benefits the club, it’s doubtful that the Bucs’ general manager capitulates. Instead, look for Dominik to gamble against a possible holdout situation from Williams and make him play through the end of his rookie deal, which expires after the 2013 season.

Finally, the Bucs replaced Winslow, who didn’t fit Schiano’s mold of a Buccaneer man, with Clark, an original Colt. The 10-year veteran isn’t nearly as productive as Winslow was, but he has been a contributor, catching 19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown through eight games. Clark was signed to a one-year deal and will likely be replaced at season’s end or by 2014 at the latest as Dominik will look for a younger tight end to pair with Freeman, Jackson, Williams and Martin to help boost offensive production.

The Bucs offense has eclipsed 400 yards of total offense and 28 points or more in the last four games, which is a franchise record. Tampa Bay’s tallying of 513 yards against New Orleans and 515 yards against Oakland are the second- and third-most in team history. Colts-like numbers indeed.

Last modified on Saturday, 10 November 2012 12:12

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Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds

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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    Good Article Scott.
  • avatar


    Don't forget about the defense, defense wins championships!
  • avatar


    And offense does NOT sell tickets...at least in Tampa.
  • avatar


    Good point 76Buc. I guess our society expects the state of Florida to purchase and distribute tickets to them. Sad that our fan base is so apathetic.
  • avatar


    I am not seeing the colts comparison here other than our yardage totals. Freeman will never be anything even close to Manning. Martin will probably be better than James and their styles are nothing alike. Vjax is not like any WR the colts ever had. Nice read but just find it laughable to compare the BUCS to the Colts. I'm still scratching my head.
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