How did the Bucs determine that Jameis Winston would be their first round draft pick last April and the overall No. 1 NFL selection? Next week Buccaneers.com senior writer Scott Smith will debut a look at the process, with unprecedented behind the scenes footage of the process.
Buccaneers.com described the upcoming multi-media feature – “From the end of the regular season until the start of the NFL draft, all eyes were on the Buccaneers as the team prepared to select a player with the No. 1 overall pick, which was eventually used on quarterback Jameis Winston. The process for selecting Winston was exhaustive, to say the least. Throughout it all, Buccaneers.com was there documenting it, step-by-step, from beginning to end.
Senior Writer Scott Smith was granted unprecedented access to the Bucs’ front office, including General Manger Jason Licht, during the draft process. Next week, fans will be able to read about everything that went into selecting Winston in Smith’s feature, “Four Months on the Clock: The Anatomy of a Franchise-Changing Decision.”
The feature will be released next week, but you can get a sneak peak at one of the videos that will be included by clicking here.
Soon after the Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston No. 1 overall, head coach Lovie Smith addressed a number of concerns surrounding the hopeful franchise quarterback, one of which being his weight.
Confident that Winston would be in great shape come training camp, Smith alluded to the fact that the former Seminole had spent every previous offseason playing baseball and not working with football trainers.
On Thursday Winston spoke on the matter for the first time since the draft. The young signal caller sounds committed to dropping his weight down to where it was in 2013, the season in which he was crowned Heisman Trophy winner.
“Trying to lose some weight, try to get back skinny,” Winston said, per NFL.com. “Right now I’m 238 (pounds). I’m trying to be my redshirt freshman year, about 230.”
Time will tell if Winston, who’s weight has long been a subject of criticism, can live up to his own expectations. But as he tries to slim down and prepare physically, the most important thing remains adjusting mentally and learning the new system.
“I mean… learn the playbook too, man. You can never go wrong with that,” Winston said.
The Buccaneers got a third – and likely final – player named to NFL Network’s “Top 100″ list Wednesday night, as Gerald McCoy was voted by his peers as the NFL’s 28th best player.
McCoy, who ranked in the same spot during last year’s version of the series, continued his dominance in 2014 despite his team finishing worst in the league. In fact, over the past three seasons – after being sidelined with bicep injuries through much of his first two years (2010, 2011) – McCoy has improved every season while his team’s overall record has regressed.
A three-time Pro Bowler (2012, 2013, 2014), McCoy finished the 2014 season with 35 tackles and 8.5 sacks, bringing his career totals to 154 and 27.5, the latter of which ranking him eighth all-time for the Buccaneers. And considering the team’s year-long struggle at defensive end, McCoy’s ability to collapse the pocket and serve as a force against the run despite little help from the outside becomes even more impressive and worthy of a top spot in the top 100.
The honor joins him with fellow Bucs Lavonte David and Mike Evans, who checked in at 56 and 75, respectively. See the video on NFL.com here
From now until the end of the preseason, the Buccaneers will have to make a series of roster cuts, eventually bringing their current 90-man squad down to the final 53. Until that time, throughout training camp and preseason, roughly 40 players will be competing for the final few spots that haven’t already been determined.
This can be a challenging time for many young undrafted players, who know that they’ll have to exceed expectations to prove they belong on the team.
One player who exemplifies the attitude every “bubble player” should have when they take the field is linebacker Jared Koster. An undrafted free agent out of New Mexico Highlands, Koster knows the importance of showing versatility and proving his depth and value too significant to cut.
“I’m always trying to be in the right place and do my job, as well as know the playbook at every single position,” Koster said after practice on Wednesday. “That way if anyone goes down at any position and they need depth, they can trust me to be there. I can also be a guy on special teams. If they think they can use me on special teams, then they also see me as a contributor as a backup at any (linebacker) position, and that makes me worth having on the 53-man roster.”
As a linebacker, Koster plays a key position in the Buccaneer’s defense and one that’s arguably the deepest and most talented on the team. With guys like Lavonte David and Bruce Carter atop the depth chart, finding a place on the Bucs’ unit seems like an up-hill battle. But the 24-year old rookie isn’t discouraged by his competition and instead uses the veterans to his advantage, picking their brains while trying to develop in every position.
“I’ve played Mike, Will and Sam already since I’ve been here. I’m kind of a utility guy,” Koster said. “The coaches want me to learn every single position and also play special teams. So I’ve gotten in Bruce Carter’s head, Danny Lansanah’s head.”
If there is a player who all undrafted rookies can learn from – especially linebackers – it’s Danny Lansanah. The practice squad journeyman turned NFL starter now tells his story to motivate incoming players. Koster has taken a particular interest as he continues to gain confidence from Lansanah along with the rest of his veteran teammates.
“(Lansanah) actually talks to the rookies during our rookie academies,” Koster said. “He explained his whole story about being on the practice squads, (how he) went home and started working for a while, got a call, came back and had an outstanding season – three interceptions and two touchdowns. His story is definitely inspiring.
“All the veterans are cool and have been really helpful, (they’re) kind of getting the rookies acclimated to the program.”
Buccaneer’s rookie quarterback Jameis Winston received a great deal of praise from CBSSports.com senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco last week in his latest column.
In his article, Prisco immediately tossed out the notion that Mike Glennon would be the opening day starter despite the third-year pro receiving the majority of first-team reps during OTAs. To that point, he believes Winston has already proved himself as the best QB in Tampa, saying that there’s no reason to delay moving the No. 1 pick to No. 1 on the depth chart.
“Name Winston the starter and move on,” Prisco writes. …”This is a player who could own Tampa Bay, a region starved for a quarterback.”
From his gunslinging mentality at practice to his work ethic and maturity, Prisco firmly believes that Tampa Bay made the right decision when they made Winston the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
Read the rest of the story here.
The splitting of first-team reps between Mike Glennon and Jameis Winston carried over from OTAs into minicamp this week, with the veteran quarterback getting the nod in Tuesday’s opening practice.
During OTAs Winston claimed that playing backup didn’t bother him, even noting it as a great opportunity to learn from a veteran while building better relationships with the second-team players.
The rookie signal caller has kept that mindset and looks forward to earning every opportunity.
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Winston said after practice. “In this world you have to earn everything you get and I’m so blessed to be playing this great game of football and to be out here with these guys…I haven’t earned it until I get it.”
Although Winston often lines up with the second-team he’s still developing in the same offense, working with the same concepts. Three weeks of OTAs and one day of minicamp in, and the Florida State product already feels more comfortable in Koetter’s system.
“One thing I’ve gotten better at is just controlling the line of scrimmage,” Winston said. “We do a lot of no huddle things and the way I communicate that to the offense is clutch.”
When Tampa Bay brought in Sterling Moore during the offseason, many assumed the former Cowboy would play exclusively at nickel corner, but so far throughout OTAs and minicamp that hasn’t been the case.
Leonard Johnson and Isaiah Frey have been seen rotating at nickel, while Moore is taking the majority of reps on the outside, mainly with the second-team defense.
And while head coach Lovie Smith claims that Moore is still occasionally being worked in at nickel, he acknowledged the fifth-year pro’s versatility as an advantage and a major reason for bringing him to Tampa.
“We brought him in because he can do both and that’s what he’s been doing for us,” Smith said. “You want guys that can do a few different things, versatility, and he has that.”
With three supposed nickel corners, in addition to Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins – who appear to be locks to make the roster – it seems the Buccaneers will have a tough decisions to make in their secondary.
It’s still early, but given the makeup of the Tampa 2 scheme many would guess that Tampa Bay will keep at least ten defensive backs, a combination of corners and safeties. After Tuesday’s practice Smith said that they would dress five corners most of the time. And with two players who are exclusively nickels – Johnson and Frey – and three corners who play exclusively on the outside – Verner, Banks and Jenkins – Moore’s ability to play both can either be looked at as flexibility that the team needs, or the odd man out in a five-cornerback secondary.
Following a one-year stint in New England that netted him a Super Bowl ring, tight end Tim Wright is back in Tampa Bay and apparently his future quarterback couldn’t be happier.
“Oh my God, he’s amazing,” rookie Jameis Winston said with a smile after Tuesday’s mandatory mini-camp. “I prayed for him during our stretches. I had to thank God for having Tim Wright here and it made him laugh.”
Wright’s addition would provide Winston with another big-bodied pass catcher to throw to and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound pro showed off his hands on a few occasions Tuesday while running with both the first- and second-team offenses.
Tampa Bay’s tight end room didn’t get any more crowded after Friday’s move since the Bucs waived 22-year-old Taylor Sloat. Wright jumps into the competition for tight end receptions with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers.
Over two full NFL seasons – the first in Tampa Bay, the second in New England – Wright has appeared in all 32 games and totaled 80 receptions for 830 yards and 11 touchdowns. The majority of that production (54 catches for 571 yards and 5 TDs) came after he was picked up as an unrestricted free agent by the Bucs and his former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.
“It’s cool [to be back],” Wright said of his return to Tampa Bay. “It’s another opportunity … another blessing from God to be able to step on the field again and do what I love, contribute to the team and do what we can to win games.”
About a third of the organizations in the NFL pursued Wright after being waived last week but had nothing but praise for his former employer.
“It was a great organization,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of people that operate in the system well and they’ve got guys that put themselves second and the team first and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
The re-acquisition of Wright returns to Tampa Bay half of what it sent to New England last August to get left guard Logan Mankins. The third portion of that deal was this spring’s fourth-round NFL Draft selection the Patriots used to get Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers.
“As we look at the waiver wire, any player available that we think will improve our ball club we’re going to jump on,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said. “That was an easy decision to make on Tim. We liked Tim [last year] and we decided to go a different direction. But where we are right now, we’re a stronger football team with Tim on our team. It’s good to see him back.”
Seeing that the Tampa 2 defense relies heavily on zone coverage, even dropping linebackers into the secondary at times, the scheme is prone to give up some yards to the offense. As a result, creating turnovers off big-play chances becomes even more crucial to the team’s success.
Linebacker Bruce Carter, who played in a similar system in Dallas, knows that the opportunities for takeaways will be there, and that it’s about capitalizing when the play comes your way.
“Being able to be in position to make interceptions (is important) but the main thing is, when it’s thrown to you, you’ve got to catch it,” Carter said. “…My tip for that is, make sure you catch it first and then do your thing.”
The Buccaneer’s linebackers did just that during Thursday’s OTA finale, constantly getting their hands on balls which often resulted in interceptions.
Leading the charge was last year’s surprise standout, Danny Lansanah, who picked-off three passes and returned two for touchdowns in 2014. The 29-year old linebacker now finds himself in a battle for the strong side position with rookie Kwon Alexander, but if Thursday’s performance was any indication, it looks like it’s Lansanah’s job to lose. The former practice squad journeyman had an interception, and tipped another into the hands C.J. Wilson during the seven-on-sevens portion of practice.
“Danny’s been our interception master all of OTAs,” Carter said. “I think he (even) had one today that he dropped. He’s a great player, a guy that has a lot of experience on our team and a lot of leadership. I’m excited to play alongside him.”
Of course interceptions in practice is somewhat of a double-edged sword, as head coach Lovie Smith would point out afterwards. While Smith, who often describes himself as a “glass half full” kind of guy, was pleased with the defensive performance on Thursday, he was also quick to mention the obvious downside – offensive performance.
“It’s a good thing if you are talking defense,” Smith said. “Offensively of course, it’s all about ball protection, securing the football and we didn’t do a great job with that today.”
Throughout his five-year career Henry Melton has lined up for the most part at defensive tackle, specifically the three-technique or nose tackle position. However, the six-year pro has seen time, albeit sparingly, at defensive end even as recently as last season in Dallas.
And given the Buccaneer’s current depth at defensive end, which would appear to be very thin on paper, it’s not out of the question that Melton, a natural interior tackle, could line up on occasion as an edge rusher.
“I played a little bit at (defensive) end last year,” Melton said after practice on Thursday. “They (Buccaneers) have brought that up to me and we’ve been messing with the rotation a little bit. We’re just going to take it into training camp and see what works.”
At this time last year Melton was rehabbing a knee injury, which sidelined him throughout all of Cowboy’s OTAs. A full-year later, however, and he claims he’s nearly 100 percent heading into three-day minicamp. And while it’s important to have all players healthy, the fact that he’s fully recovered this early on in the offseason is especially important for the Bucs if they plan on testing him at multiple spots, including defensive end.