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WHAT THE BUCCANEERS ARE LOOKING FOR: The Buccaneers have a pressing need for safeties as they currently only have three on their roster. Tampa Bay is considering re-signing Dexter Jackson and John Howell, who are both free agents. Jackson could compete with second-year man Will Allen for the vacancy created when starter Dwight Smith left for more money in New Orleans. Howell would likely be a reserve and a special teams player. Tampa Bay wants its safeties to have good speed and range for its Cover 2 and Cover 3 defensive schemes. The Bucs also expect their safeties to come up in run support and tackle well. Look for Tampa Bay to come away with one, or perhaps two safeties from this draft.
UPDATE: Jackson was re-signed a few weeks ago, however the team has yet to make a move for Howell, who will never be a starting caliber safety, but is a dynamite special teamer. Any safety drafted by the Bucs this year will have to have good special teams aptitude. With Jackson back in the fold and competing with Will Allen for the starting free safety spot, the need for drafting a safety has lessened somewhat. But the team would like to shore up the strong safety spot and add a player behind Jermaine Phillips on the depth chart. This is a deep year for safeties, so don’t expect the Bucs to draft one on the first day unless a real steal falls in their lap in the third round.
IDEAL PLAYERS FOR THE BUCS’ SCHEME: While Georgia’s Thomas Davis and Oklahoma’s Brodney Pool are both intriguing players who would fit in Tampa Bay, both will likely be gone by the time the Bucs are on the clock in the second round. Michigan’s Ernest Shazor could be considered in Round 2, but look for the Bucs to go for a safety in the third round or later where Iowa’s Sean Considine, Georgia Tech’s James Butler, Nebraska’s Josh Bullocks, San Diego State’s Marviel Underwood and Louisville’s Kerry Rhodes will be on Tampa Bay’s radar. The Bucs really like Rhodes and Bullocks. The team worked out Rhodes at his pro day workout and came away impressed. Tampa Bay is familiar with Butler from the Senior Bowl, but he needs to turn up his motor and intensity. One player who does not have trouble with that is Auburn’s Junior Rosegreen, who had a very impressive Senior Bowl week. There is some concerns about how he retains information, but his intangibles and special teams ability make him a target for the Bucs in rounds 5-6. Fresno State’s James Sanders, South Carolina’s Jermaine Harris and USC’s Jason Leach could be options for the Buccaneers in rounds 6-7.
UPDATE: The names to remember are Rhodes, Rosegreen and Bullocks. Those players stand the best chance of becoming Bucs, according to our research. Add the name Morgan Scalley to the list of safeties that interest the Buccaneers, too. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Utah star could be a late-round option or an undrafted free agent possibility. Scalley is extremely smart and graduated with a 3.95 GPA. He was a unanimous first-team All-Mountain West selection and Mountain West Co-Defensive MVP after recording six INTs, three sacks, three forced fumbles, recovered two fumbles (returning one 88 yards for a TD) and blocking a field goal as a senior. Scalley, who has great leadership ability and high character, also is a kick and punt returner and returned a kickoff 90 yards for a TD against UNLV. He was won the First Annual Pat Tillman Award at the East-West Shrine Game, which recognizes character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service. More than a football award, this honor is about achievements and conduct on and off the field.
BUCS’ BEST BET – FS KERRY RHODES (Louisville) While not overly physical, Rhodes does have a great mix of size and speed and can be effective in either man or zone coverage. He had six interceptions as a senior and has the range the Bucs like, but dropped a costly pick against Miami in the waning moments of the fourth quarter that could have sealed a Louisville victory in the Orange Bowl. Rhodes could be a more aggressive tackler, but is physical enough for Tampa Bay.
CURRENT BUCS SAFETIES: Jermaine Phillips, Dexter Jackson, Will Allen, Kalvin Pearson, Eli Ward
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: email@example.com