The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where’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.

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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]


  1. I love how it is just a forgone conclusion that Grimes is the starting corner no matter what. Yes he will start there, but lets not act like he cant get beat out for a starting spot. He is 35 so it is very easy to see him slowing down and losing a step. I think every corner position is up for grabs this offseason.

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    • It’s called projecting. It’s kinda what they do around here. Who, based on potential or play from last season, do you see supplanting him on the outside?

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  2. I hate the the secondary’s game revolves around one player. Grimes is really really good, but I think he is hurting the team. VH3, Stewart and Davis would all benefit from playing press coverage but they can’t because Grimes is no good at it. Why have the CBs play in unison. Why not let Grimes play off and let the others press?

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    • Amen to this.

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    • This is a good question. But I would say that if Grimes is “really really good” at what he does, then he’s not hurting the team. I would wonder why, if the goal is for corners to play in unison, are we drafting so many press corners. I would also add that if VH3 had been as good as advertised (specifically on the outside), we wouldn’t even be asking this question.

      But yeah, why do they HAVE to play in unison?

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  3. Bringing back Brent Grimes will prove to be a mistake. His play slipped last year and apparently we still appear to be catering our defense to his skill set. Buckner is being talked about so much that it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he replaced Mike Smith during the season if our defense doesn’t improve. This coaching staff confuses me, one minute they talk about an aggressive defense that forces turnovers but run thee most vanilla/soft scheme in the division. The pass rush is improved but it wont matter if we continue to give easy completions by playing off coverage. Jason Lichts free agency was better but not replacing Grimes with a bigger CB like Talib or Sherman might prove to be the problem this season. We can’t fix every problem but I sure would’ve liked to see the money spent on Jacquizz Rodgers, Mitch Unrein, Will G and Sweezy used on a player capable of having an impact on our secondary. Also not sure why they are playing Stewart outside when I thought he was coming in to compete at S and slot CB. We traditionally waste time in the summer playing players here, there and everywhere vs putting them in one position and letting them grow. Versatility is one thing but stability is also a thing that we need to take into account. Lets players get comfortable doing their job before you see what else they are capable of doing.

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  4. Don’t care what anybody says, We scored enough points to win at least 5 more games last year. Had we just had a Defense playing at perhaps a 60% level, we could have won those games. I am not impressed with DC Smith. never have been. He should have been fired after that shocking season this past year. Koetter luvs the guy so much, he brought in a barker (the guy who should be the new DC.. Buckner) to do Smiths job for him While Smith sits on his butt up in the pressbox for his..better view. It stinks and smells. But is indicative of the..Tampa Bay way! Smith has all of the tools now. I don’t want to hear any excuses from this team this year. If Koetter and Smitty cannot win? Then please send them packing..Please!

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  5. It doesn’t make sense to draft these CB’s more fit to press and because of one player who was less effective last year and will continue to get slower we ignore it. Sure wish someone would ask Smith the obvious question which is his why the lack of desire to press?
    Agree with you Mark about DE’s and why should I change as this is still a weak area.

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  6. I like your optimism about the DL Mark, but your season predictions haven’t exactly been close to the mark (no pun intended) the last 3 years or so. I think I’ll wait and see what transpires in the preseason before I get my hopes up.

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  7. Just read a post written about Vinny Curry in 2017 , read that his sack production in last three years has been 3 or less sacks a season , even with playing in all sixteen games last year, the writer Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia was sure with lack of production he would not be back with the Eagles in 2018. My question is why do Bucs feel he will be a improvement for this team ???? Ayers had 2 sacks in 12 games
    This team need to make big changes JPP is questionable now Reading Curry questionable and a fat guy with first pick I am not sure this D is better

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    • Sacks do not tell the whole story about production of a player.

      “Although his 2017 statistics (particularly, three sacks) don’t show it, Curry had a strong season.

      According to Pro Football Focus, Curry had 47 total quarterback pressures on 333 pass rushing snaps. That is 13 fewer than defensive end Brandon Graham (60), who played on 102 more pass-rushing snaps.

      Curry’s pass-rushing productivity was one of the best in the NFL last season, as PFF had him as the 12th-best pass rusher overall in terms of production per pass-rushing snap. Graham came in at 10th and his average production per snap when he was sent after the quarterback was essentially even with Curry. ”

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  8. I give Licht a grade of A regarding new D-line additions. Really no major DE’s available worth price and fit, although JPP was an excellent pick up for all the right reasons. If our pass rush doesn’t come from DT’s push up the middle, primarily VEA, Allen, Unrein and maybe even Curry at DT, as well as McCoy getting a revitalization with all the help, then we are doomed to non-playoff,< 50/50 record. The quickest way to QB is thru middle and collapsing pocket! I am hoping we can revitalize the rush with a DT mentality and sure that's what Light hoping for as well. With all the new Bigs, will also allow flexibility in future drafts to bring in more Outside LB pass rushing types, like Tremaine Edmunds, who can maybe get us into more of a 3-4 defense pressure scheme. I'm sure we all would have loved to get Chubb at DE, but with all the other team needs we couldn't afford to trade up at this juncture although I'm hoping were getting close with several solid drafts with Licht at helm. Just need an aggressive coaching style which I'm not sure we have with Koetter?! Hope he changes my mind with an attacking scheme this year?! We will see soon. GO BUCS.

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  9. Just an observation, tell me the difference between driving a QB into the turf while chancing an unnecessary roughness penalty or forcing him to throw it out of bounds as fresh lineman blur his vision. Tell me which is better, a QB tucking the ball and running into the heart of our line backers because he doesn’t have time to get a pass away or a ball being tipped into the air where it becomes a potential INT. Point is it is all about pressure, Sacks are nice, but constant pressure wins games.

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  10. Sounds like a lot of you are expecting multiple 10+ sack producers this year. That just isn’t feasible for obvious reasons. Philly’s DL was great last year without a single stand-out player (numbers wise.) I, for one would rather see 4 or 5 guys put up 5 sacks each than to have 1 put up 10 himself.

    Rotation is gonna be big for us, especially in the Florida heat. The guys we have available are gonna give Buckner all the pieces he needs to rotate and scheme matchups against other teams. While I have little faith in Smitty’s scheme in the secondary, I feel VERY confident in the DL situation.

    Maybe the added pressure will be enough to effect the back end. But I’d still like to see Smitty play to his players’ strengths. Basing the scheme off of the skills of a single player, even though it plays to the weaknesses of the others just doesn’t make any sense. In 2016 our defense seemed to play far better and there wasn’t a mass exodus of defensive players. Therefore the scheme is to blame and I’m curious as to why when there was so much lack of effectiveness.

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  11. Posted before I was finished lol…

    Was also gonna say that I feel we’re drafting the right players, it’s just a matter of adjusting the scheme to fit them. I just hope Smitty makes the change sooner rather than later. On a positive note though, from what I’ve read up on Buckner he seems like the perfect DC to right the ship.

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  12. Prediction…

    Mark Myers will beat out Vernon Hargraves.
    #28 is a BUST…!

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  13. I am hoping first that Smitty will do more blitzing like he did year before last and hopefully using Whitehead on some too, and secondly that during preseason we find some more capable DEs. We have some UDFAs that had some good sack totals last year in college and let’s see how some of our backup DEs from last year do. I expect McCoy with no more double teams and more rest with rotational good DL backups to be at last a double digit sacker this year and I expect the same from durable PFF since Vea can push the middle back taking away the step up space for the QB to get off his passes before PFF can take him down. If Noah Spence stays healthy and adds more that is just gravy and the same applies to Curry and Gholston. I think we will be much improved there too this year in the sack and pressure department.

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  14. Oh and if Smitty would just develop his defense based on the strength of his players he would let our Aged All Pro play back and let the other CB position jam their receiver and delay their WRs from getting open and giving our DEs and McCoy more time to reach the QB. If he does that VHIII will be able to hold his own because that is why he was a consensus top 10 pick in the draft. I still think Davis will take the CB position this year and Stewart will get the Slot Corner job but we need to retain VHIII to play the opposite CB position next year but let Davis take the side of the field with the other teams top receiver.
    That way next year we can take a first round DE and even move up to get one of the best, then use a second pick for a good long term RT.

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