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. GLENNON ALREADY HAS IT MASTEREDMost NFL players do not graduate from college prior to making the leap to the pro ranks. Many are often a semester’s worth of work away from getting their bachelor’s degree because oftentimes players have to essentially drop out of school during the spring semester to concentrate on working out full-time for the NFL Combine in February and pro days in March and April.
Some NFL players will never get their degrees. Some players will go back and finish their classes in the offseason or take on-line classes and eventually get their Bachelor’s degree during their playing days, or after they retire from the league.
Some players will persevere through college by juggling a rigorous football practice schedule and actually graduate on time. And then there are those rare individuals like Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.
You see, not only did Glennon graduate with his bachelor’s degree in business management he also graduated with his master’s degree in liberal studies. Glennon was able to accomplish both feats in just four and a half years in college, graduating last December prior to playing in the Senior Bowl in January.
“It’s hard enough for guys to graduate and get their undergrad degree while playing football,” Bucs right guard Davin Joseph said. “But to get their Master’s degree in four and a half years? That’s the cool fact of the day right there. I didn’t know that about Mike. That’s pretty amazing.
“You hear about athletes struggling in school a lot, but you don’t hear enough about the ones that excel in school. He’s one of them, of course. I’ve seen him excel here in quickly learning the playbook. You can tell he’s an intelligent dude from his conversations coupled with his football I.Q. He’s a total package-type guy.”
Like Joseph, Bucs offensive lineman Jamon Meredith didn’t know that Glennon had graduated with two degrees before entering the NFL.
“I believe it,” Meredith said. “You can see that he’s a bright, intelligent guy. That doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Wide receiver Chris Owusu, who played at Stanford, the West Coast’s version of an Ivy League school, was equally impressed with Glennon’s accomplishment.
“I’ve seen people try to do a Master’s program and even in five years it’s very tough,” Owusu said. “To see him do that in four and a half years – and play football on top of it all – that speaks volumes about how smart he is, and how well he does with time management. It shows his learning capability and his ability to quickly understand a complex offense.
Glennon brushes off his teammates’ compliments about his intelligence, but does take a great deal of pride in the work he put in to balance being a starting quarterback for two years at an ACC school with finishing his time in college with two degrees.
“That’s one of my biggest accomplishments – to start at a high-level school and get my Master’s degree and my undergrad,” Glennon said. “With summer school and as long as you don’t drop classes, it’s not too hard to graduate with your Master’s, and I wanted to make the most of my time there. I redshirted, and I went to school for four and a half years. I did my undergrad in three years and then did my graduate work in a year and a half. It’s something to be proud of. It’s really a testament to my hard work and dedication more than it is to my intelligence.”
Joseph believes that Glennon’s intelligence has been the catalyst for his quick transition to becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL.
“His intelligence can only help his learning curve, right?” Joseph said. “He’s that guy that you could probably tell him about things once or twice and he’ll know it for the rest of his life. You can tell his recall a lot with the offense by all of the details he’s already picked up about certain plays. He has that brainpower. You need that as a quarterback with all the stuff we have going on.”
Joseph and others absolutely rave about Glennon despite only having started four games in the NFL. For as much promise as Josh Freeman had in 2009 when he was Tampa Bay’s first-round pick, I can’t remember as much early praise for Freeman from the veterans as Glennon has received.
“I’ve been impressed with Mike Glennon since he first got here,” Meredith said. “I was on the second-team with him in the preseason and I’ve seen him grow. When he first came here it seemed like he was ready to step up then. He prepares well, he has a great arm, he’s smart and he’s tall. He’s a prototype quarterback and the sky is the limit for him.
“A lot of the rookie quarterbacks are coming in more prepared now than ever it seems. He’s just like the other successful ones. He’s come in and he’s ready to play. He prepares like a veteran. You really can’t tell he’s a rookie until he makes a typical rookie mistake.”
Through his first four NFL starts, Glennon has looked like a competent NFL starter – not a rookie – while completing 106-of-181 passes (58.6 percent) for 997 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. After a shaky start that saw him throw two fourth quarter interceptions against Arizona and post a 55.7 QB rating in a 17-16 loss in Week 4, Glennon has posted QB ratings of 84.7 (vs. Philadelphia), 90.7 (at Atlanta) and 80.1 (vs. Carolina).
With a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a completion percentage nearing 60 percent, the only thing preventing the elimination of Tampa Bay possibly drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is the fact that Glennon remains winless in his first four starts. Despite a 0-4 record, Glennon’s teammates see his promise and potential.
“To see him get it in a couple of weeks just shows how great he will become,” Owusu said. “You could see his confidence in the huddle. That’s something that has improved. He speaks louder and he wants your attention in the huddle and he demands that. Everyone responds positively to that and he encourages us. I’m telling you he’s going to be great.”
Considering that Owusu played with Andrew Luck, who was the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, at Stanford, he would know what a great quarterback looks like. Given the Cardinal offense and the university’s reputation for academic excellence, Owusu said that a braniac like Glennon would have been an ideal candidate to play quarterback with him in college – if not for that guy named Luck.
“Mike would have fit in well at Stanford,” Owusu said. “He’s a pocket passer. He’s big with a big arm. And of course he’s smart, so he definitely would have fit in well with us at Stanford.”
FAB 2. GLENNON’S GETTING BETTER AT THE DEEP BALLBuccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon has been criticized for not being a good deep ball thrower despite having a big arm. While long passes come with a low completion percentage, the truth is that Glennon has missed on several of his deep throws this year, dating back to the preseason.
The rookie’s longest pass of the year thus far has been a 59-yard jump ball to Vincent Jackson that the 6-foot-5 wide receiver came down with and scored on against Atlanta.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Owusu has noticed that Glennon’s deep balls have been more on target each week in practice and during the games.
“He’s gotten more accurate as times has gone on,” Owusu said. “That’s something that you need in a starting NFL quarterback. As receivers we’re gaining more and more confidence in him.”
The rapport between Glennon and Jackson is growing stronger as time goes on. Glennon spent the entire offseason, training camp and preseason throwing to the likes of Owusu, Tiquan Underwood, Eric Page and the rest of Tampa Bay’s backup receivers.
Owusu and Glennon connected on a couple of 40-yard passes in the preseason and he has faith that the rookie will continue to develop as a deep passer.
“When he has time – and our offensive line is improving every week – he gets those balls there,” Owusu said. “I’ve seen that in preseason games and I’ve seen it in practice now. He’s actually a very accurate deep ball thrower.”
Facing a Pro Bowl secondary that features cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, Glennon will have to pick and choose his opportunities to throw deep to Jackson, Underwood and Owusu – and he better be accurate.
FAB 3. DAVID IS HAVING A PRO BOWL-CALIBER SEASONLost in a forgettable, 0-7 season in Tampa Bay is the unforgettable play of weakside linebacker Lavonte David. The second-year star of the Buccaneers defense may be the most talented player on the team and has the production to back it up.
David’s play has caught the eye of Jeff Gooch, a former Bucs linebacker from 1996-2001 and 2004-05 and current vice president of football operations for the Tampa Bay Storm Arena Football League. Gooch not only played next to future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, who set the standard for weakside linebacker play in Tampa Bay and around the league, he now works for him as Brooks is the Storm’s general manager.
“Watching him from afar and knowing what goes into being a young linebacker in the NFL, and seeing him perform like he is – it’s remarkable to say the least,” Gooch said. “It’s a real credit to Mark Dominik and those guys who found him and picked him to be a Buccaneer. You see the explosive plays that he’s making, and you see him understanding the game way before his time right now. It’s unbelievable.”
Through the first seven games of the 2013 season, David leads the defense in tackles (59), tackles for loss (11), sacks (five) and interceptions (one). David, whose five pass breakups rank second on the team behind Darrelle Revis’s six, is coming off back-to-back games with double-digit tackles with 10 tackles (all solo) against Atlanta, and 12 tackles (nine solo) and a sack against Carolina before the nation on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network.
The Nebraska product is on pace to finish his second season with 134 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 11 pass breakups and two interceptions – all would be personal bests, while the 25 tackles for loss would be a franchise record. Should David finish with 11 sacks that would tie Broderick Thomas (1991) for the most ever in a single season by a Tampa Bay linebacker.
David is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but given the Bucs’ 0-7 record and his lack of exposure around the league, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2012 isn’t a household name, which will hurt him when it comes to time to tabulate the ballots for the annual NFL all-star game. Bucs fans can vote for David by clicking here.
In fact, he’s probably known more on a national level for a late hit on Geno Smith that led to the New York Jets’ comeback in Week 1 than for his stellar play. David could change that with another big game before another nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football next week as Tampa Bay hosts Miami.
When the 6-foot-1, 230-pound David was drafted there were immediate comparisons to Brooks because both players were labeled as undersized, fast and good tacklers. But through the first year and half of his career, David’s statistics are actually better than Brooks’, which makes the comparison even more legitimate.
Through the first 23 games of his career, Brooks notched 141 tackles, 15 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one interception. During that same span, David has compiled 198 tackles, 15 passes defensed, seven sacks and two interceptions to go along with 31 tackles for loss. The NFL did not record tackle for loss statistics when Brooks began playing in the league from 1995-96.
While their body types and speed are similar, Gooch said that they both shared another trait that was actually more important at the weakside linebacker position.
“Lavonte’s instincts are Derrick-like, and I think that was one of the more underrated things about Derrick when he was younger,” Gooch said. “I played with Derrick for so many years, and it’s his instincts that made him what he is. I tell him that all the time. It’s one thing to be able to run fast, and it’s another thing to be able to tackle hard. But to understand and react way before everybody else is something that is very hard to measure. It’s the first thing that everybody is looking for in defensive plays – football instincts – and Derrick had a ton of it.”
While Gooch recognizes and appreciates David’s fast start to his NFL career, he’s not quite ready to put the young linebacker in Brooks’ category yet.
“The one thing that you can put your finger on when you measure young guys to older guys is consistency,” Gooch said. “Lavonte has done that thus far with his year and a half in the league. He’s played at a very high level in almost every game he’s played in, which is unbelievable. But I’ll wait to reserve judgment at a later date to really compare the two. What made Derrick a remarkable player was the day-in, day-out consistency and how he met the expectations that the league and the Bucs placed on him to perform. It was unbelievable.
“I hope Lavonte has that type of career and can keep that level of consistency up. It’s a difficult thing to do over a decade, but if anybody can do I think Lavonte can.”
FAB 4. PENN IS BUCS’ NEW IRON MANWhen Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn stepped into the starting lineup for the injured Luke Petitgout in Week 4 of the 2007 season little did he know that he would remain Tampa Bay’s starter for the next 99 games. But he did.
On Sunday in Seattle, Penn will start his 100th consecutive game at left tackle for the Bucs, which is an amazing achievement and puts him in a class with Tampa Bay legend Paul Gruber, who was inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor last year.
“I am blessed,” Penn said. “Happy I was able to do it, especially coming in as a free agent and starting at the bottom and working my way up. It is a great accomplishment. It seems just like yesterday I was in here battling Simeon Rice trying to stay on the team and now it is my 100th game. I have been through ups and downs and I am just very blessed to be here and be able to make it injury-free and hopefully keep it going.”
Typically facing the opponent’s best pass rusher on every play, Penn said it’s been difficult to stay healthy for eight years and not miss a game due to injury.
“It s not [easy], especially at left tackle,” Penn said. “You look at it now and so many left tackles are getting tossed around, first-round left tackles getting traded here and there. To be steady for that long, I’m not big on patting myself on the back, but it is a big accomplishment.”
Penn showed off his iron man form last year, as he was the only offensive lineman to start all 16 games at one position. Throughout his career, Penn admits there have been some close calls where he has doubted if he could go on Sunday, yet always answered the call.
“There has been a lot of times (like that),” Penn said. “One thing a lot of you don’t know is I have only missed two or three practices since I have been here. I don’t miss practice, either. That is tough, I have to fight through a lot of stuff, a lot of aches, a lot of pains. But we have a great training staff here. Todd [Toriscelli] takes care of me, and I can talk to him about anything. That is what made me get here – it’s because I can push through a lot stuff and a lot of adversity.”
Penn faced a lot of adversity in his first NFL start in Week 5 of the 2007 season going up against Indianapolis Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney and the noisy crowd in the RCA Dome.
“How can you not remember your first start against Dwight Freeney in that dome?” Penn said. “That was a great learning experience. I have to thank Mark Dominik for bringing me here. I have to thank Jon Gruden for giving me my first shot and believing in me. Especially the Glazer family for sticking with me so long.”
If the dome was loud in Indianapolis back in 2007, Penn may be walking into the loudest environment he’s ever played in on Sunday as Seattle boasts the second-loudest stadium behind Kansas City with the Seahawks’ 12th Man.
“It is tough, I am not even going to lie to you, it is tough,” Penn said. “That may be one of the toughest places to play, especially with the noise, too. The last time we played there it was real good, we got on them early and kind of quieted the crown down and we were able to handle them. If they get it going, then it is tough to play and come back. I definitely don’t want to get into a passing game, like it was last week, in that loud stadium. We have to come out and play strong. It is going to be a great test. I don’t think anyone in the world thinks we have chance except for the people in this locker room. So it will be a great test with our backs against the wall.”
Penn will be seeing a familiar face on Sunday in defensive end Michael Bennett, who played in Tampa Bay from 2009-12. On a team with Cliff Avril, Chris Clemmons and Bruce Irvin, Bennett leads Seattle in sacks with 4.5, but usually lines up on the left side of the defense as he did with the Buccaneers.
“Yeah I am looking forward to it,” Penn said of playing against Bennett. “I sent Mike a text and said, ‘Just stay on the other side.’ Mike is playing some good ball up there. He is really playing good ball and using him well keeping fresh guys coming in. I think Mike having a great year.”
Penn has had several great years in his career, including 2010 when he made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. The former undrafted free agent out of Utah State credits two players for teaching him how to play at an NFL level.
“My biggest mentors – there are two of them, and one is still here and one is not here anymore,” Penn said. “The first one is Derrick Brooks. I guess he saw something in me when I first got here because he used to talk to me all the time and tell me the potential I had and tell me the opportunity I had in front of me when I didn’t even know. And look what it has turned into. I still talk to Derrick Brooks a lot, still to this day.
“The other one is Davin Joseph. I have followed Davin’s lead since I have been here. He was a first-round pick from Oklahoma. You know Oklahoma players have a different work ethic. So I just followed Davin around all the time. I lift what he lifts. I try and lift as much as he lifts. If he does extra, then I do extra. I have been doing it every since I have been here.”
And Penn has been ever since Week 5 in 2007, and it’s a tribute to his talent and toughness. Congratulations, Donald. PewterReport.com salutes you.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Just to illustrate how hard it is for offensive linemen to stay healthy, Bucs left tackle Donald Penn will start next to the fourth left guard Tampa Bay will use this season if Jamon Meredith gets the start at Seattle on Sunday as expected.
“Really if you count preseason it is the sixth guy,” Penn said. “But who’s counting? That has been the story of my career. I think I have just one or two years where I have had the same guard all year. I did some extra work with Jamon today, trying the get the feel for us, the continuity together. We did a little extra Monday after practice. I am not going to lie. It is tough for me, it really is. But I seem to make them look good here and there and I am going to try and do that again. It’s tough and part of the game that you have to do. I’m sure when I came in the first game I was in [Aaron] Sears was probably like, ‘Who is this guy?’ But we made it work.
“Jamon did great things for us last year. He did great things. He is great player. We have great depth and I am looking forward to playing with him.”
• Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson made the Pro Bowl a year ago as a replacement player after catching a career-high 72 passes for a personal best 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. Despite a quarterback switch from veteran Josh Freeman to rookie Mike Glennon, Jackson has still made an impact, catching 41 passes for 623 yards and four touchdowns through seven games.
That puts Jackson on pace to catch 93 passes for 1,423 yards and nine touchdowns. If he were to finish with those numbers, Jackson would have new career highs for catches and yards and would tie his career high with nine touchdowns. Despite some drops, those are Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, and Bucs fans should get behind Jackson and vote for him by clicking here.
“I think he’s having a good year,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. “I think he and Mike have a good feel for each other. I think the way Mike’s reading out plays is going to allow Vincent to get more, because if they want to double Vincent, well then Mike’s going to go to other guys until Vincent isn’t doubled anymore.
“I think it’s getting lost a little bit in our year. Vincent is a perfectionist, so I know that any mistake he makes he gets very, very frustrated with. I don’t have to ever get on Vincent Jackson; he’s on himself when he makes a mistake. I think he’s going to have a big second part of the year, too.
• Don’t look now, but after Bucs kicker Rian Lindell started the season missing two of his first three kicks, including a critical miss against New Orleans, he has nailed 10 field goals in a row. Lindell is now 10-of-12 on the season, connecting on 83.3 percent of his kicks.
• Seattle has also played the NFL’s other winless team, Jacksonville, earlier this year. The Seahawks hosted the Jaguars and beat them 45-17 for the team’s biggest margin of victory this season. It will be interesting to see what the final score is on Sunday when they host the Buccaneers.
• Dallas defensive end George Selvie has five sacks this season, and Cincinnati defensive end Wallace Gilberry has four sacks. Both were on the Buccaneers offseason rosters in 2013 (Selvie) and 2012 (Gilberry). Selvie was cut prior to OTAs (organized team activities), and Gilberry didn’t make it to Week 2. Of course, you might remember Gilberry giving Tampa Bay head coach a tongue-lashing earlier this season in the media.
“When I was in Tampa, it was frustrating – the whole situation. From the time I got there until the time I left,” Gilberry told reporters, via Bengals.com. “They released me twice. They cut me on the field at practice after the final cuts. I was on the field, ready to practice in pads and everything. Schiano came on the field and got me. ‘Hey, we’ve got to release you.’
“I flew home to Alabama and they called me the next morning. ‘We made a mistake. We want to bring you back.’ They signed me back. I made the opening day roster. My contract was guaranteed, and then they cut me again after Week 1. Schiano’s a joke, as you can see.”
Given the struggles with the Bucs’ pass rush, it seems like the team could have used Selvie and/or Gilberry. By the way, Tampa Bay’s entire defensive line has a collective seven sacks, led by defensive end Adrian Clayborn’s three.
• And finally, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to Pewter Report Radio yet on 98.7 The Fan, Tampa Bay’s only FM sports radio station, you can get the inside scoop on the Buccaneers each week day. I’m on with Booger McFarland and Rich Herrera on the Booger and Rich Show every Monday and Friday at 4:20 p.m. ET and with Kirk McEwen and Chris Dingman on the Kirk and Dinger Show on Thursdays at 8:00 a.m. ET.
PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Mark Cook is on 98.7 The Fan on Tuesday nights at 9:20 p.m. ET and on Fan Interference With Justin Pawlowski and Jim Lighthall on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m.
Be sure to tune in today at 4:20 p.m. as I break down the Buccaneers’ chances of winning at Seattle on Sunday, and then listen next Monday at 4:20 p.m. as I recap the game with Booger and Rich.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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