Bucs CBs Ryan Smith (29) and Josh Robinson (26) – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
FAB 2. THE PRO BOWL WILL BE PEWTER IN THE FUTURE
The two most deserving Buccaneers made the Pro Bowl this year.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, whose seven sacks this year ties him the second-most by a defensive tackle this year, made the Pro Bowl for the fifth straight time. That puts him in select company with legendary cornerback Ronde Barber (2001, 2004-06, 2008), safety John Lynch (1997, 1999-2002) and middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson (1993, 1996-99) for his five Pro Bowl selections.
And wide receiver Mike Evans, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time, was very deserving considering the fact that he has 84 catches for 1,159 yards and 10 touchdowns, which ranks third in the NFL, this season. Evans was rewarded for his career year, which was the third consecutive season in which he topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2014.
Yet there are others that deserve strong consideration, including the four players that were named as alternates – middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, weakside linebacker Lavonte David, punter Bryan Anger and cornerback Brent Grimes – in addition to tight end Cameron Brate, who was not named an alternate despite being tied for the league lead in touchdowns (seven) among tight ends. There are some other quarterbacks with better statistics, such as New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, but Jameis Winston, who made the Pro Bowl last year as an alternate, has had a fine season.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Injuries to players named to the 2017 Pro Bowl, in addition to some last-minute dropouts could lead to some of those alternates making the trek down I-4 to Orlando, which is the site of this year’s NFL all-star game. That was the case last year when David, Winton and former left guard Logan Mankins made the Pro Bowl, joining starters McCoy and running back Doug Martin.
I suspect that Alexander will wind up making it to his first Pro Bowl and represent Tampa Bay. He’ll replace Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who has missed the last four games due to a concussion he suffered against the Saints on Thursday Night Football. Kuechly made the all-star game because of his hot start to the season and his reputation as a four-time Pro Bowler, certainly not what he’s done down the stretch.
Kuechly has 102 tackles (71 solo), six pass breakups, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. He was off to a faster start than Alexander statistically before he got hurt, but since then he’s been passed by Tampa Bay’s middle linebacker.
Alexander has a team-high 125 tackles, including an NFL-high 97 solo tackles, along with seven pass breakups, three sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pick-six. Thanks to his career-high 21-tackle game against Dallas on Sunday Night Football, Alexander is the league’s fifth-leading tackler this season.
The Bucs’ fourth-round pick from a year ago told me he had no idea he had that many tackles against the Cowboys.
“I didn’t realize it, I was just trying to get a win,” Alexander said. “I just had a lot of stuff on my mind that I wanted to release, and I released it, and I’m going to release some more on Saturday. I’m never had a game like that before. I didn’t even know until after the game I had that many tackles until somebody told me. I wasn’t even worried about it. I was just mad about the loss because we’ve been doing well lately.
“It’s amazing what hard work can do. I put a lot into this. I don’t joke around about this game. I’m just trying to get my team to the top and get a lot of recognition for our team. We have a lot of great players on our team that don’t get recognized a lot.”
Alexander’s sensational game in prime time against the Cowboys will help his Pro Bowl chances for next year. So will making the Pro Bowl as an alternate this year if that were to happen.
TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Pro Bowl often lags behind a year in getting first-year participants into the game. Players like Alexander, tight end Cameron Brate, who is tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with seven touchdown passes, and guard Ali Marpet stand a good chance of getting Pro Bowl recognition in 2017 if they finish the 2016 season strong. Alexander, Brate and Marpet often get snubbed by the likes of players such as Kuechly, who got into the Pro Bowl based on reputation rather than actual production over the first 13 games before voting is closed.
“I didn’t spend a whole lot of time analyzing the other guys at their position,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “I think they’re playing good for us, that’s what I’ll say, I think they’re playing good for us. In the offseason, that’s something that we do, is we go through and see how our guys stack up with the rest of the league, but this time of year, we’re busy just getting ready for what we’re doing.
“So I couldn’t even tell you who made it at tight end, I don’t even know. So, how Cam stacks up against them or how Ali stacks up against the guards, I don’t really know that. They’re playing good for us, I’m glad they’re on our team.”
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith is proud of the way Alexander is playing in his second year and believes his best football lies ahead of him.
“I mean, you go against a team like Dallas and you’re closing in on 22 tackles – you’re playing some football,” Smith said. “He was all over the field. I think he’s really going through a maturation process through this season and I’ve been very pleased.
“The arrow is definitely going up. He’s learning the game and he’s a very emotional player. He plays with a lot of passion.”
If Alexander can post a combined 25 tackles over the remaining two regular season games he’ll join some elite company. The Bucs haven’t had a player reach 150 tackles or more in a season since the legendary Brooks did it in 1999 with 154 stops.
Buccaneers’ Top Tackle Seasons
1. Hardy Nickerson – 214 – 1993
2. Broderick Thomas – 174 – 1991
3. Derrick Brooks – 158 – 1998
4. Derrick Brooks – 154 – 1999
5T. Lavonte David – 147 – 2015
5T. Hardy Nickerson – 147 – 1997
Factor in the likelihood that Tampa Bay have more primetime games due to the popularity of some of their young players, and the team’s playoff push in 2016, and that should help the Bucs turn the Pro Bowl pewter next year. A quick look at the team’s 2017 opponents reveals that there is the potential for several marquee match-ups and nationally televised games, especially against the likes of Detroit, New England, the New York Giants, Miami and Green Bay, in addition to NFC South foes Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans.
Tampa Bay’s 2017 Home Opponents
New York Jets
NFC East – TBD (New York Giants)
Tampa Bay’s 2017 Away Opponents
NFC West – TBD (Arizona)
“Every game means a lot to me,” Alexander said. “I take everything seriously. I can’t wait until Saturday.
“If you want to be the greatest, you have to do whatever it takes to be the greatest. So that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
Greatest in the NFL is measured by Super Bowls and Pro Bowls.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“He’s had all the talent necessary, that’s why he was able to step up and be put into a starting role early,” McCoy said of Alexander. “Now he’s actually learning about the game and what he needs to be looking at, reading his keys and reacting a lot faster. Kwon is only going get better. He’s another one of those guys that’s going be good in this league for a long time.”
Alexander is on the cusp of his first Pro Bowl, and could be joined by several of his Tampa Bay teammates for years to come. McCoy, Evans, Winston, David, Brate, Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence? Who knows? It could be quite the pewter party at the Pro Bowl in 2017 and beyond, as it was in 2002 when the Bucs had seven Pro Bowlers, including quarterback Brad Johnson, fullback Mike Alstott, linebackers Brooks and Shelton Quarles, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and defensive end Simeon Rice.
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
I don’t agree with the defensive end need. I would prefer a DT. As impressed as I am with McCoy, there is only so long that a DT can be that dominant. Since they are playing a lot of cover 2, the DT becomes the cornerstone of the defense that allows them to only rush 4.
I would put Center on my list as a need to make a change. Joe Hawley & Evan Smith are too small, but atleast we have some other in house talent who should be considered to up grade the Center spot. Lets not talk about acquiring OL from other teams as we haven’t done so well. I’m for drafting them. TE is a need and we should bring in a couple players thru a signing and the draft. Let’s still keep focus on a DE; we are one short and same for a big WR and super fasr WR. Looks like BAP might be in order for the early rounds. Go Bucs
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My wishes for you and your family are a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with health and happiness!! Again another truly insightful and ORIGINAL info in your SR’s FAB5. In my opinion you cover the Bucs like a GM. You focus on the NOW but you always have one eye towards the future. Great feature on two up and coming players on Ryan Smith and Leonard Wester. These next two games are HUGE for the Bucs! I hope they come up big. I believe the Bucs need to get the run game going in order the finish strong in this playoff push. In my opinion some fans are killing Martin for the run game but I really think the problem in our running game is our OL. I think they miss Logan Mankins leadership ( I know his skills were declining) so that got me thinking about the offensive line next year and how could the presence of JR Sweezy affect it. 1st off have you heard any updates on Sweezy’s injury? (career threatening? healthy and ready to go for next year? still cloudy?) Anyway my guess without having any knowledge of Sweezy’s injury status, next year’s Starting five will be Left OT Smith, Left OG Sweezy, C- Marpet, Right OG- Pamphile, Right OT- Dotson. What do you think? Am I even in the ballpark? Go Bucs! Thanks again for having the Best Bucs info anywhere!!
Sounds like a pretty decent offensive line, Tassonedna. Sweezy was supposed to be a top shelf addition, so if he does fully recover that should help a bunch.
But, we also need to be on the lookout for a possible addition in free agency, as always. And we oughta draft at least one offensive lineman every year, just to keep the pump primed.
The Bucs have 3 DEs on IR – Jacquies Smith, Howard Jones, and George Johnson. Presumably, they will all be back – all have produced in the NFL.
Ordinarily, I would say we’ll be okay. But every once in a while a player come along, a freak if you will, that possesses all the traits the NFL is looking for – size, speed, high motor, and good character.
This year that yet unknown player is Tanoh Kpassagnon 6-7, 290, and runs a 4.76/40 from Villanova by way of Uganda. I going to bet he is a combine story and shoot up draft boards. I’m thinking that because he didn’t play FBS, but FCS, he could be had in the 3rd round.
He is big and strong enough to play DT and fast enough to play right DE. Noah Spence is good but not strong enough to collapse a pocket. He has to run around the OT and come in the back door – too late for a QB like Drew Brees.
Imagine if William Gholston is pushing from the LE and Tanoh is pushing from the RE, McCoy and McDonald are going to eat. Lol. I have no idea how Tanoh or the Bucs will turn out, but you can tell I’m impressed!
great post. I just looked him up and love the idea.
None of those guys you named on IR is going to come back and give you what the Bucs are missing at DE. We need a Micheal Bennet Type of DE and non of them pose that type of threat. Love the kid from Villinova myself but will the Bucs scouts do their job and go and get him. he’s probably the kalil mack of this yrs draft
The wish list should have cornerback at the top. It’s a tough position to learn and Grimes should have one more good year in him then it’ll be time to replace him. Have that guy in house and ready to roll when that time comes. I think WR has a lot of options in FA that could help either in the form of Alshon or Desean both bringing elements this offense could use. TE is another position that could be available this summer as Martellus Bennett only signed a 1 year deal in NE and although its tough to leave NE we could offer him some money to make that interesting. I agree DE should be fine and think we need to find an impact DT to pair with McCoy. I like McDonald more as a rotational DT bc he seems to stay healthy in that role. Ayers could benefit and rush from the end spot a little more as well spell the guys inside. The NFC goes through Dallas so the formula to beating them is stopping the run. Get some explosive big bodies up there and that task becomes a lot easier. That said, Beat the Saints!
SR- Another really great fab 5. I want to say how much I admire your taking responsibility for your misstatement on the Assistant Coaches’ availability. We all make mistakes and it takes a big man to admit them. KUDOS to you. I really like the Santa’s wish list portion. I much prefer the draft to Free Agency. Outside of trading two picks and trading up for RA, and drafting JW ahead of MM, Licht’s drafting prowess has been outstanding!!! I think JW needs above average weapons to be effective so, let’s draft weapons for him! Great job.
What a shock reading your revelation that you preferred Mariota over Jameis. Never figured that out from your posts. Don’t you think Jameis’ fiery personality was more what this downtrodden team needed than the comatose Mariota? Can’t they both be good for their respective teams? I think it’s time you moved on, stop seeking evidence to support your case or switch your loyalties.
Scott’s Santa’s Wish List shows that, in spite of the team’s improvements, a case could be made that there are needs at nearly every position. Needs change. That’s why the best player available will always be my approach to the Draft.
I’m glad that we’re on Christmas Eve eagerly anticipating the game and not secretly wanting to lose for a better Draft position.
I find it amusing when folks in the media and TV announcers comment on certain teams “traveling well” when they show up in droves to games away from their home stadiums. Oh, I’m sure some come here from the far north and other places, but the vast majority who infest our “home” and that of other warm weather places like Miami, Jacksonville, San Diego and Arizona, live within 200 miles. These are the front-runner fans like my neighbor who moved here from New England when the Patriots sucked and became a Gator fan, caring little about the NFL. He became a casual Bucs fan when the local team became play-off contenders and ultimately champions. But as soon as the Gators ended their glory days under Spurrier and the Bucs declined, he was once again sporting his Flying Elvises gear. That is typical of the transplants who choose to align themselves with the perceived better team.
Me, I’m from Pittsburgh. I moved here after graduating from high school to go to UT. The Dolphins were our team at the time so I converted to being a fan until WE GOT OUR OWN TEAM! I don’t know how someone can decide to live here and not adopt the local teams of their new chosen hometown. When I left Pittsburgh in June 1967 I left my girlfriend Sandy behind, telling her I’d see her in August. I met my wife with whom I’ve been married for 47 years and never returned. Twenty eight years after my departure from Pittsburgh, my wife and I, while visiting the area, stopped by to surprise Sandy. It was quite funny. But had the encounter been less than amicable and had the ladies gotten into a tiff, I can assure you I would have sided with my wife and not the girl I left behind.
Hey Scu- I moved from Tampa to Pittsburgh last year. How funny. BTW, I have given up on the JW/MM thing. I have my opinions on that and only time will tell who is the better QB. As far as the draft, I think we need to improve O-line and get more weapons for JW. He needs them. Best,Buc
That’s hysterical Bucnut! Watch out for those folks in western Pa. They all think everyone should be -a “Stillers” fan. If it’s going to become your permanent home perhaps a little black and gold will invade your closet.
Visited last year during the Bucs bye week and went to the Cardinals-Steelers game. How nice it was not to be surrounded by enemy fans. You’ll need to learn some Pittsburghese. It’s “Yuns, as in you-uns not y’all.
We’ll be there in August for my 50th high school reunion. Stay warm.
Totally agree with your proposed Draft needs. Protection and weapons for Jameis.
Shocker bucnut thinks we should’ve taken mariota. Haha let me educate you on something since you have a tough time understanding how football works . For one mariota has a superior offensive line and run game. For 2 he’s had the pleasure of facing one of the weakest schedules in the NFL this year. Oh except his last three games against good defenses were he’s completed 35% of his passes for 1 td and 4 to’s. They’re both good for the teams they are playing for. Leave it be already with your screwed assessments.
Hi guys! did you see your “franchise”qb today? He looked great, didn’t he. He is a turnover machine.
See yours getting carted off after a dismal showing?
Enjoyable read. Speed receiver would be welcome. Lets beat the Saints please.
Bucnut2 make sure you get on the Rolling Rock. When I spent a year in Hershey I found the case of RR in the 7 oz Pony bottles my choice.
— Go Bucs !!!
SR, the error on the assistant coaches leaving was my comment on the last Fab 5. I didn’t think that they could leave. The only exception was if they were made an assistant HC as part of their title. I still love your work!
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