The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.
Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag. Read them over and offer up your thoughts in the comment section.
Question: Jason Licht continues to draft physical, press defensive backs even though Mike Smith runs an off-the-ball zone defense. Is Licht drafting the wrong players, or is he letting Smith know that he needs to change the defense or get out of Dodge?
Answer: I think a lot of it is how Smith prefers to play his pass coverage scheme based on left cornerback Brent Grimes. Grimes doesn’t play press man, and at his size he would not be very effective, in most people’s opinions. And besides his size itself, Grimes is more of a reactionary player that uses his ability and instincts to essentially bait a quarterback into mistakes. Grimes can no doubt turn and run with most receivers, and also has tremendous make up speed to close on receivers, combined with an excellent ability to get up high, even on bigger players. That is his skill set, and it has been very effective over the years.
But I think you want your corners to play in unison. And as most coaches will tell you, it is easier to teach a guy to move forward than run back, if you get what I am saying. There are times, even with Grimes in there, where the Bucs played closer to the line of scrimmage last season, and they will again this year. But as long as Grimes is on the field I am not sure you will see this secondary playing a true press scheme.
I don’t think Licht is making any type of ultimatum to Smith, maybe more just planning for the future. Grimes is most likely playing his last season in the NFL, and it could be the Bucs want to transition to being more physical at the line of scrimmage in 2019 and that’s why they drafted two physical young players in Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart in the second round.
Question: How to you see the CB battle shaking out?
Answer: Since the night Davis was drafted, I have felt that he will start the season opposite Grimes. I think right now it is a wide open competition for the other starting job on the outside between Davis, Ryan Smith, Vernon Hargreaves and Stewart. Then it will be a battle between Hargreaves, Smith and Stewart and maybe Javien Elliot to be the nickel back – if one of those doesn’t win the outside corner starting job.
Davis has a different attitude and demeanor, one that is unique to any other cornerback on this roster, and that was apparent from draft night when we spoke to him. Davis reiterated that vibe on Saturday when we talked to him following Day 2 of Rookie Mini-Camp.
“Yeah, you can ask some of my teammates – I just love the game,” Davis said. “I have a lot of passion for it and I feel like when you play corner, you have to have a lot of confidence and you have to always believe in yourself because without that, you are kind of dead out there. It’s a position where you are on your own a lot and without confidence, you might not be as good as you think you are.”
There is just something different about this guy and while there are a lot of things he needs to learn and get better at, if I were a betting man, I would go all in on Davis, who was praised by head coach Dirk Koetter as the most consistent rookie in the rookie mini-camp.
Question: With all the DTs we now have, do you see more rotation on the line, or just starters playing the most?
Answer: I think that the ideal and most effective plan would be a rotation to help keep guys fresh. If this defensive line stays relatively healthy this year, where are the weaknesses? And that is something I never dreamed I would be writing when the Bucs walked off the field last December 31 after beating the NFC South divisional champion New Orleans Saints. This team has the potential to be like the New York Giants who won two Super Bowls with multiple waves of pressure on the quarterback, and somewhat like the Eagles were last year.
The Eagles didn’t have a single player with double-digit sacks last year, yet made quarterbacks, including Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, uncomfortable and pressured them into making mistakes. Sometimes all it takes is affecting a quarterback’s rhythm and timing.
We all like to see the quarterback hit the ground, but guys like Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and New Orleans’ Drew Brees, in particular, are rhythm passers who try and get the ball out quickly. Imagine a 95 degree fourth quarter at Ray Jay this fall and the offensive line is huffing and puffing with their hands on their hips, and in comes four different players who have played less than half the snaps that they have. Advantage Buccaneers.