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. McCOY LEADS BUCS’ FAITH AND FOOTBALL THIS SUNDAY AT RAY-JAYThis week the Buccaneers announced that their 2013 home finale against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium is a sold out. It could have something to do with the fact that Tampa Bay has won four of its last five games, including its last three home contests. It could have something to do with the fact that the star-studded 49ers were the Super Bowl runner-up last year.
Or it could have something to do with the fact that the Buccaneers are hosting a post-game concert with Christian rock band and multi-platinum recording artists MercyMe as part of the team’s second annual Faith and Football event.
“We look forward to another full house at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday as our players attempt to finish out the season with a fourth consecutive home win,” said Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford said. “It should be a great atmosphere for what promises to be a great afternoon of football followed by a very entertaining post-game concert that the entire family can enjoy.”
The Buccaneers have once again enlisted Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a devout Christian, to help promote the event and give his personal testimony to those attending the post-game concert.
“Last year was a thing where they just needed somebody to help promote it,” McCoy said. “I told them I would do it because I love talking with people and sharing my message with them. They came back to me this year and they said, ‘Gerald, we want you to do it.’ I couldn’t turn them down. I live my life a certain way and I try to be an example for people on how they should live their life or how we’re supposed to – that I believe we’re supposed to. When I get an opportunity to share that with people I’m going to take it. That’s all this is. Last year was great. I’m looking forward to it.”
McCoy, who grew up in the church, as his father was a pastor, relied on his faith in God to help overcome torn biceps injuries to both arms that shortened his first two seasons in the NFL. Entering his third season, the third overall pick in 2010, overcame the bust label thanks to prayer and help from the Lord to record a career-high five sacks en route to his first Pro Bowl berth last season.
This season, McCoy has been able to reach new heights in his career, notching seven sacks through the first 13 games of the year while aiming for the Pro Bowl again.
“With my faith I can relax and I can be calm,” McCoy said. “I’m reading Psalms 118:6-7. It says, ‘The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me. He is my helper. I look on with triumph over my enemies.’ When I look at that I think, ‘If God is for me, who can be against me?’ That’s how I approach everything I do. God has made a promise with me, and he’s made a promise to all of us. We just serve Him and live right by Him and he will make a way for us. When I go play with so much comfort and I live life with so much comfort I know that God is always going to provide a way.”
McCoy accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior as a middle school student, and realized his first blessing when he began to play football. McCoy, whose vision is so impaired that he must wear prescription glasses or contacts at all times to see, realized that he didn’t need to wear glasses on the football field.
Miraculously, McCoy could see perfectly on the football field and became a high school All-American, a college All-American at Oklahoma and a Pro Bowler without corrective lens. Off the field, his vision is still impaired.
“That’s ridiculous, right?” McCoy said. “That’s a blessing, man. It’s a blessing from God, of course. People ask me, ‘You don’t wear contacts?’ No, man. I’m blessed. I have never ever worn glasses or contacts on the field. Not one time. Off the field I can’t see without them. It’s a blessing.”
Joining McCoy to give his inspirational message to the post-game crowd at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday is backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
“My involvement with the event comes from our team chaplain, Doug Gilchrist, who asked me if I would speak at the game,” Orlovsky said. “I want to take the opportunity to share my faith with the people that decide to come, and how it not only affects my life, but also my football life by painting the picture of how it affects the life of an NFL football player.”
Orlovsky is inspired by how God has worked within the life of a family man like McCoy.
“The great thing about G. is that he is unashamed and unapologetic about his faith, but he doesn’t portray an air of supremacy,” Orlovsky said. “He doesn’t think he’s better than anyone. He understands he makes mistakes and that he’s human. He allows God to be God. So many times we as football players can become righteous and think higher of ourselves. I think that’s one of the qualities that is endearing about Gerald and his faith.”
McCoy got married this offseason to his high school sweetheart, Ebony, and they both live their lives celebrating their relationship with God.
“We’re not supposed to marry a woman who doesn’t have the same beliefs or doesn’t have the same focus on God that a man does,” McCoy said. “My wife is just as strong as I am in her faith. She loves it. That’s what she’s about. Any time she thinks I’m slipping, she catches me. That’s what it’s about. We hold each other accountable. It helps our relationship because God is our central focus. Anything we do is to please the Lord. The Bible says when you find a wife you find a good thing. My wife is my rock and we center our lives around God.”
Orlovsky’s path towards God took a more roundabout way than McCoy’s did.
“I grew up in a very traditional church, and kind of like a lot of people, I decided to do things my own way for a while through college,” Orlovsky said. “But I was around several strong Christians in how they lived their lives. I was at a crossroads in my life in early 2006. I started doing a lot of research and asking a lot of questions. I got saved on September 23, 2006 and my life kind of took off from there. There were a lot of hardships and struggles and a lot of changing of my lifestyle. My faith has grown a lot since then. I’ve learned that football is not what am I, but it’s what I do, so it’s a big part of my life. My faith has a big aspect of what football is for me and allows me to handle football. It doesn’t minimize football or glorify it, either. My faith affects my football life every day.
“Being a Christian in my walk, I’ve had ups and downs. Four years ago in training camp in Indy I thought there was an opportunity for me, but things weren’t going my way. I got cut and in that moment I asked a lot of questions. I had been doing all the right things, living the right way and spending a lot of time with God. On the ride home, a song came on the radio by Josh Wilson, and the chorus said, ‘How in the world would I think I could only get to love you when my life was good?’ That kind of stopped me in my tracks and it refocused my relationship with Jesus on a daily basis. I realized that not everything was going to happen when I wanted it to. It’s easy to say and hard to do. But that was a moment in my faith that kind of elevated me to an understanding that God was in complete control. It may not be the plan that I want, but just believing that Jesus came and died for my sins so that I could live life to the fullest. Living life to the fullest could be different than what I perceive it to be. It took a long time for me to get a grasp of that and live it and be okay with it.”
McCoy and Orlovsky will be sharing the stage with MercyMe, a group that has had a multitude of successful albums and songs, including Word Of God Speak, I Can Only Imagine, You Are I Am and Here With Me among others.
“MercyMe is one of my favorite bands to listen to,” Orlovsky said. “One of the great things about their songs is that the majority of their songs could be sung in a church on a Sunday morning, they could be sung in your car when you want to let loose, they could be sung at home when you are looking for background music. Their music can send a message, it can get you fired up or it can bring you to a quiet place. They are phenomenal with their songs telling a story. I look forward to meeting them.”
The message about faith is just as important as the music, and spreading the good news of the Gospel is important to McCoy.
“I’ve actually never heard their music, but I’m excited to hear MercyMe,” McCoy said. “MercyMe is who they got to perform with us, and that’s cool. For me, if I can only reach one person with my message, that’s all that matters to me.”
FAB 2. GHOLSTON BURSTING ONTO THE SCENE FOR BUCCANEERSTampa Bay’s 2013 rookie class is a talented group of players that keeps get more impressive as the season goes on. Akeem Spence, a fourth-round pick, was the first to burst onto the scene and become an opening day starter at nose tackle for the Buccaneers. Cornerback Johnthan Banks, Tampa Bay’s second-round selection, also made an immediate impact, starting off the season as a nickel cornerback before working his way into the starting lineup.
Undrafted free agent Tim Wright, a wide receiver who was converted into a tight end during the offseason, saw significant playing time coming out of training camp and immediately became a surprise starter in Tampa Bay. Next came third-round pick Mike Glennon, who replaced Josh Freeman as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback in Week 4, followed by running back Mike James, a sixth-round pick who started three games for the injured Doug Martin before going on injured reserve himself.
It took half the season for defensive end William Gholston, the second of Tampa Bay’s fourth-round picks, to make an impact on the field, but the former Michigan State star has really emerged as a playmaker in the Bucs sub package on defense. In fact, Gholston, who plays both defensive tackle and defensive end in obvious pass rushing situations, had a career-high 1.5 sacks, four tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup in last week’s 27-6 victory over Buffalo.
“I thought Will played tremendous last week,” Spence said. “He had a sack and a half and I think he rushed the quarterback real well. He and I executed our games and I thought he did a great job with that. Our timing was well. You saw him running around trying to make plays, knocking himself out on the sidelines by running to the ball.
“He was playing relentless. That’s what the coaches thought he could do, but it took him a little time to do it. He’s showing you he’s got it. He’s showing you what he can do. That can happen week in and week out as long as he continues to master his craft. The sky is the limit for that guy. He has all of the traits – long arms, great height. He’s JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) in the making.”
That’s what the Bucs were thinking when they took the chiseled, athletic, 6-foot-6, 281-pound defensive end in the fourth round last April. At Michigan State, Gholston was a two-time, second-team All-Big 10 performer where he recorded 70 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and five sacks as a sophomore, and 49 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a junior.
While Gholston set a Spartans bowl game record with five tackles for loss and two sacks against Georgia in a 33-30 triple overtime win in Tampa’s Outback Bowl, he was inconsistent in college. His inconsistency combined with the fact that he left school a year early as a junior led to his slide down the rounds in the 2013 draft.
“When I first came into the NFL I thought I was being consistent in college, but being able to be out there with these guys shows me there is a whole new level I have to play at,” Gholston said. “I wish I would have known back in college that it took this level of play to truly be consistent.
“Everything started to click for me once I got more playing time. I started getting a feel for the speed of the game and learning some tricks of the trade. I’m very comfortable out there right now.”
Gholston credits watching defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Adrian Clayborn, two of the hardest-working players on the Bucs roster, for his rapid development.
“It isn’t as hard as it might be otherwise because I have a very player-friendly defensive line room,” Gholston said. “Gerald is one of the guys that shows me how to play defensive tackle, and he’s great. I have Gary Gibson, who also shows me how to play tackle, and then I have Clayborn helping me at defensive end. It wasn’t as hard to adjust to because of their help.”
Spence marvels at the fact that Gholston has become a big-time contributor to the defense so quickly because of the time it has taken to learn both the tackle and end positions.
“It’s a lot of work, especially for a rookie,” Spence said. “He’s having to learn two positions. Unlike me, he is having to do double duty. That double duty is making him a better player because he’s learning how to play inside and outside. He learns what he learns from Gerald and he learns what he learns from A.C. He’s got the best of both worlds to learn from. He’s in the meeting room feeding off those guys.”
Gholston’s first NFL sack came at defensive tackle and was a shared sack with fellow defensive end Da’Quan Bowers on Monday Night Football against Miami on first-and-10 on the Dolphins’ final drive. That fourth quarter sack set up a second-and-17 situation and preceded a 10-yard sack by McCoy and ultimately led to Tampa Bay’s first victory of the year.
“It feel really good,” Gholston said. “It was a really big sack. It was at the end of the game and we really needed it. I felt like I was a part of that ending series and it was my chance to leave a mark.”
McCoy thinks very highly of the 22-year old Detroit native.
“He has rare size and ability and he doesn’t even realize it yet,” McCoy said. “Very few people have been blessed with his type of athletic ability and frame. He can do anything. I’m just trying to be that guy that can reveal it to him. I’ve told him, ‘If you can just learn how to play football at this level, you’ll be a monster. You’re strong. You’re quick. You have long arms. You can do what Julius Peppers does by playing the edge and playing inside. He knows how to play the game.’ I’m just trying to show him the ropes and he can go from there.”
As a reserve player, Gholston already has 15 tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss and one pass defensed. Those are better statistics than starter Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who has just 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack, and Bowers, who has seven tackles and one sack.
The Bucs don’t plan on re-signing Te’o-Nesheim next year because he has disappointed the team with his lack of production. Te’o-Nesheim signed a one-year deal as a restricted free agent worth $1.323 million this season and he hasn’t been worth the investment.
Buoyed by Gholston’s production in spot duty, Tampa Bay plans to let him and Bowers compete for the strongside defensive end position in 2014. Having Gholston in the starting lineup adds more size to the Bucs defense, which head coach Greg Schiano wants. Te’o-Nesheim is 6-foot-3, 263 pounds, where Gholston is three inches taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier.
“The crazy thing is that Gerald told Will, ‘There’s nobody on this team that can block you when you’re going all out,’” Spence said. “You can’t touch Will when he puts his arms out. He’ll run you over. He’s got everything to be a great player. Gerald can see it. As long as he continues to work with G. and work with Coach [Bryan] Cox and works on his craft you all are going to hear about Will Gholston around this league. Get ready.”
FAB 3. DEFENSIVE END THE LIKELY FIRST PICK FOR TAMPA BAY IN 2014If the 2014 NFL Draft were held today, the Buccaneers would be picking ninth as there are five teams currently with a 4-9 record. The fact that Tampa Bay’s defensive tackles have out-sacked the defensive ends this season means the Bucs need to add a premier pass rusher to bring more heat off the edge in 2014 – despite the potential of young defensive ends William Gholston and Da’Quan Bowers.
2013 Sacks By Bucs Defensive LinemenDT Gerald McCoy – 7DT Akeem Spence – 1DT Derek Landri – 1DE Adrian Clayborn – 4DE William Gholston – 2DE Da’Quan Bowers – 1DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – 1
The Bucs aren’t the only team in need of an upgrade in the pass rush department. Four of the teams ahead of Tampa Bay – Atlanta, Minnesota, Jacksonville and Buffalo – could use a pass-rushing defensive end, but two of those teams – Minnesota and Jacksonville – have a more pressing need at quarterback and could use their first-round pick to select a new franchise QB instead.
There are currently five defensive ends that carry a first-round grade, led by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, who is almost a lock to go to Atlanta with the third overall pick. At 6-foot-5, 274 pounds, Clowney is an athletic freak that reminds some of former first-round pick Julius Peppers. Here are Clowney’s highlights.Clowney, a junior, is expected to dominate the NFL Scouting Combine, which will solidify his chances of being a top 5 draft pick despite a disappointing season in which he recorded only three sacks due to constant double teams. Clowney had 13 sacks in 2012 and has 24 QB captures in his career, to go along with 125 tackles, 46 tackles for loss, nine forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Clowney has five games with multiple sacks.
Another edge rusher that carries a potential top 5 draft grade is UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. At 6-foot-4, 248 pounds, Barr has the frame to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or defensive end in a 4-3 scheme if he puts on another 10 pounds.
Barr has 152 tackles in his career, with 41.5 tackles for loss, including 20 this season. Barr has a knack of getting to the quarterback, evidenced by 23.5 career sacks, including 13.5 last season and 10 sacks this year. The Bruins standout has five games with multiple sacks, in addition to nine forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick on his resumé. Here are Barr’s highlights.
Buffalo’s Khalil Mack is another top 10 talent with the ability to rush the passer. Like Barr, Mack played outside linebacker, but was frequently sent after the quarterback. At 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, Mack has the versatility to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or add some weight and become a 4-3 defensive end. Here are Mack’s highlights.Buccaneers defensive end Steven Means, the team’s sixth-round draft pick in 2013, played with Mack at Buffalo last year.
“He can do whatever a team needs him to do in a 4-3 or a 3-4,” Means said. “He’s had enough practice in space covering guys, and as you can see, he can get after the quarterback. He has hands and he’s gotten interceptions and a couple of pick-sixes. He’s the total package.”
Mack is an even more explosive player than Barr is, and doesn’t take plays off like the UCLA star does. In fact, Mack is one of the top hustlers in college football and is always around the ball, evidenced by his 321 tackles, 75 tackles for loss and 28.5 sacks. Mack has 19 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2013.
“He’s a man amongst boys out there this year,” Means said. “He’s in the perfect situation. He’s a great guy and his character isn’t an issue. He’s fast, explosive and strong. I’m looking to see him go real early in the draft.
“He’s the type of player, like me, who’s never satisfied. He just takes it to another level with the forced fumbles. He’s never the type of player that is satisfied with the tackle. He’s trying to get the strip and force a fumble every time he’s making a tackle. That’s something that has definitely helped him get to this point of his career.”
Mack has recorded 20 pass breakups, an astounding 16 forced fumbles, including five this year, four interceptions, including two pick-sixes in 2013, and two blocked kicks.
With Clowney and Barr playing against a higher grade of competition and being more household names, both players could very well be off the board by the time Tampa Bay selects. The explosive Mack would be an ideal fit coming off the edge as a pass rusher, and can even play some outside linebacker and make plays in space to add versatility to the Bucs defense.
Means would love to be reunited with his former teammate in Tampa Bay.
“That would be perfect,” Means said. “I had one of my other guys here in Willie Moseley and that felt great. For someone else from Buffalo to come down here would be fantastic.”
There is currently a debate within the walls of One Buccaneer Place over what type of defensive end the team needs. Some members of the Bucs’ brass believe that the team need a speedy, explosive pass rusher like Mack, while others believe that the Bucs should continue to add bigger defensive linemen like Stanford’s Trent Murphy, who is 6-foot-6, 261 pounds.
Murphy, who played outside linebacker in Stanford’s 3-4 defense, is the nation’s leading sacker with 14, and is coming off a junior season in which he recorded 10 sacks. The Stanford edge rusher has 31.5 career sacks, three forced fumbles and a pick-six during his time with the Cardinal.
Murphy, who has seven games with multiple sacks, has 153 tackles in his career, in addition to 50.5 tackles for loss with 21.5 tackles for loss coming this season. If he’s still around by the time Tampa Bay selects in the first round, the smart, athletic and hard-nosed defender would be an ideal fit for the Buccaneers. Here are Murphy’s highlights.
The final pass rusher that has first round talent is Clemson junior Vic Beasley. At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Beasley is probably best suited to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and not a candidate for Tampa Bay. Beasley has 20 career sacks, including 12 in 2013, with five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown the last two years his time at Clemson.
Yet the Bucs have been burned by defensive ends from Clemson in the past. Neither Charles Bennett (seventh round, 2006) nor Gaines Adams (first round, 2007) panned out, and Bowers (second round, 2011) has yet to crack the start lineup in his third NFL season. You can view Beasley’s highlights here. Either Mack or Murphy would greatly help the Buccaneers’ pass rush in 2014, and both are more consistent than Barr on a down-in, down-out basis. Whoever gets selected will depend on two things – which player is still on the board when Tampa Bay is on the clock, and if the Bucs put more emphasis on speed or size when it comes to drafting a defensive end.
FAB 4. A REAL PAIN IN THE GRASS FOR FOSTERWhile about half the NFL teams plays on artificial surface, the other half of the teams, including Tampa Bay, play on grass. Imagine being an NFL player and being allergic to grass.
Such is the case for Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster, who typically talks with a nasally tone due to spending several hours a day outside on the grassy practice fields at One Buccaneer Place. It’s not uncommon for Foster to be congested, sneezing or have a runny nose during the open locker room session with the media.
Of all the teams that Foster could be drafted by, it had to be Tampa Bay where it doesn’t snow and the warmer climate only prolongs the grass pollen season and creates problems for allergy sufferers.
“I have bad allergies,” Foster said. “I’m actually allergic to grass. Sometimes after practice I have it real bad. I have my Zyrtec and my Zicam. It was horrible growing up as a kid playing baseball. I had to take my medicine all the time. I played catcher so at least I was in the dirt. I’m allergic to grass, pollen, dust. I have it bad.”
Like millions of allergy sufferers, Foster has to rely on allergy medicine to control his symptoms so he can function.
“Before I come to practice I take my nasal spray,” Foster said. “I try to take my nasal spray and it usually keeps me clear for 12 hours. Anytime I don’t it’s horrible.”
There have been a couple of instances where Foster has forgotten to take his allergy medicine before a game, and has had to improvise on the sidelines.
“If I don’t have the spray or I feel clogged up I’ll just use a Breathe Right and some of that smelling salt – ammonia,” Foster said. “It feels a lot better with the spray, though. It will open you up.”
While Foster suffers the most playing at home on the grass surface at Raymond James Stadium, he has also been able to overcome his allergies and have a couple of the best games of his three-year career in Tampa Bay.
In Week 2 against New Orleans, Foster recorded seven tackles, two passes defensed and returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown. In a 41-28 win over at Atlanta in Week 10, Foster had three tackles, one pass defensed and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.
Thankfully for the Buccaneers, Foster isn’t allergic to pigskin.
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Although Tampa Bay only has five draft picks in 2014 due to trades for cornerback Darrelle Revis (third round) and offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (sixth round), don’t expect the Bucs to put running back Bobby Rainey on the trading block to fetch an extra pick next spring. Rainey, an exclusive rights free agent, will be back in Tampa Bay next year to compete for carries behind starter Doug Martin and to provide solid depth at the running back spot.
Rainey will likely finish as Tampa Bay’s leading rusher this season as he has 433 yards and four touchdowns on 95 carries (4.6 avg.), and is only 24 yards from surpassing Martin (127 carries and one touchdown for 456 yards (3.6 avg.)) for the team lead this year. That should happen against San Francisco on Sunday.
The Bucs like the trio of Martin, Rainey and Mike James, and with Martin and James missing the second half of the season due to season-ending injuries there is an obvious need for a quality stable of running backs. Expect the odd-man out next year to be Brian Leonard, who is an unrestricted free agent.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the 30-year old Leonard re-signed to a one-year deal in the offseason due to his versatility. Leonard would be signed to be insurance through training camp in case there was an injury to another back, but the younger group of backs with Martin, Rainey and James offer Tampa Bay more ability to run the ball successfully than Leonard does.
• Although FS Dashon Goldson hasn’t made as big of an impact statistically as some might have anticipated coming to Tampa Bay from San Francisco via free agency, the two-time Pro Bowler does have 56 tackles, seven pass breakups, one interception, one forced fumble and a tackle for loss on defense – despite missing two games with an injury and one game due to a suspension.
As Goldson gains more experience in Greg Schiano’s defense, he will be become more comfortable and be able to make more splash plays. One source tells PewterReport.com that while Goldson is the best communicator in the secondary on the field, he will have an occasional lapse to his San Francisco days and call a 49ers coverage audible that will confuse his Buccaneers teammates.
One of the more difficult aspects of signing free agents from other teams is the process of those players unlearning previous schemes, systems and verbiage. The Bucs have been victim to Goldson making the innocent mistake of reverting back to his 49ers verbiage in the heat of the moment and the result of the play is a busted coverage. The team expects that time spent in another offseason and training camp at One Buc Place will wash six years of studying the San Francisco playbook out of Goldson’s system.
Where Goldson has also made an unsung contribution to Tampa Bay is on special teams. Not only is he the Bucs’ free safety on defense, Goldson also serves as the personal protector on punts, replacing Cody Grimm. Goldson executed a fake punt earlier in the season against Arizona with a 22-yard run, and recovered a muffed punt last Sunday against Buffalo.
• While Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik has typically made a habit of signing younger free agents in their prime under the age of 30 instead of targeting free agents over the age of 30, he may change his philosophy in 2014 if he’s still around. Dominik has presided over just one winning season in Tampa Bay since taking over as general manager in 2009, and that was a playoff-less, 10-6 campaign in 2010.
Dominik is 25-36 in his nearly four seasons as Tampa Bay’s G.M., and he is squarely on the hot seat. Despite two recent excellent drafts, and being able to trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, and acquire the likes of Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, the Bucs haven’t been able to translate all of Dominik’s talent acquisition into wins.
For that reason, it would not be far-fetched for Dominik to go outside his comfort zone and sign a free agent like five-time Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen to help Tampa Bay’s pass rush. While defensive end might be the most pressing need in the 2014 draft and should warrant the use of the team’s first-round pick, Dominik can’t afford to wait to see if a rookie – or Da’Quan Bowers or William Gholston – can develop quickly enough to make an impact next season.
Allen, who turns 32 in April, will be a free agent and has compiled 124 sacks, 29 forced fumbles and four safeties in his 10-year NFL career. Dominik and former general manager Bruce Allen once inquired about trading for Allen when he was with Kansas City, but Minnesota ultimately pulled the trigger on the trade in 2008.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end came within a sack of the NFL all-time sack record. In 2011, Allen recorded 22 sacks, and he is currently on a six-year streak of double-digit sacks. After recording 12 sacks last year for the Vikings, Allen currently seven sacks with three games remaining this year.
While the Bucs passed on signing former Falcons defensive end John Abraham due to some issues in Atlanta (the Falcons didn’t want to re-sign him, either), there is no doubt that Abraham has had a big year in Arizona at age 35. Abraham has 11 sacks and four forced fumbles this year. That has opened Dominik’s eyes and could cause him to change his perimeters for signing free agents to include a player like the soon-to-be 32-year old Allen.
Without having to dish out big bucks to re-sign QB Josh Freeman, Dominik will have about $17 million worth of salary cap room to use in 2014. That’s enough room to target Allen in March.
• The Bucs’ brass is very concerned that weakside linebacker Lavonte David is going to be snubbed for the Pro Bowl. David has 116 tackles, which is fifth-most in the NFL, 11 run stuff, which is the most in the league, six sacks, five interceptions, a forced fumble and a safety, and is only one of four players in NFL history to record six sacks and five picks in the same season – and the only linebacker to ever do it.
But David has been getting very little press outside of Tampa Bay, and has rarely been talked about on national pre-game shows due to the Bucs’ losing record. He also didn’t enter the NFL with as much fanfare and name recognition as a player like Luke Kuechly. David is also currently ninth in fan voting.
If you want to make a difference, I urge you to reach out to as many Bucs fans as possible after reading this SR’s Fab 5 column and send them this link so they can read the SR’s Fab 5 and vote for David, Gerald McCoy, Darrelle Revis, Vincent Jackson and Mark Barron for the Pro Bowl. Get other Bucs fans to stuff the ballot box for their favorite Bucs to help their chances of making the Pro Bowl.
Kansas City sent six players to the Pro Bowl last year after finishing 2-14 on the season. It’s a safe bet that McCoy will be making a return trip to Hawaii, and he needs to have David with him. Click here to vote David and other Bucs to the Pro Bowl.
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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