Each week PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your submitted questions about the Bucs. You can have your question answered by asking on Twitter using the #PRMailbag hashtag. Here are this week’s five questions.
Question: Is Chris Baker A.K.A. Swaggy a poor man’s Warren Sapp? I think he’s going to add a lot to our pass rush as well as run defense. Thoughts?
Answer: Well I am not sure I would say poor man anything when describing Baker who signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract this offseason – I know what you meant by the way. I think there are a couple of similarities between the two players. First and foremost, both have a confident edginess to them on the field, and that is a good thing, in my opinion. I think defensive players need that type of attitude. Sapp has some of the most attitude I’ve ever seen, and from what we have been told, Baker possesses a lot of that as well.
Secondly, both are pretty talented players, however, Sapp is in a whole other class. Sapp was the best Bucs player I ever saw. Not many other Bucs held their teammates to such a high standard as Sapp did, and not just only on Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. but also every day in practice.
With that said, I loved the signing of Baker and think he will have a big impact on the defense. It is clear the Bucs wanted to get bigger up front, and did just that with the signing of Baker and the drafting of Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. And you also make a case with the selection of Kendall Beckwith at linebacker who the Bucs see as possibly the stating strongside backer, but also backing up Kwon Alexander in the middle.
Question: If the Bengals shop Giovanni Bernard or Jeremy Hill are the Bucs interested? How about Tevin Coleman when he hits FA? Other options?
Answer: Certainly anything is possible, and all options are on the board. While many may believe the Bucs are in rebuilding mode, all teams are every season essentially. The organization is not looking three years down the road to be a playoff team. This team thinks they will be in 2017, and are also have aspirations to be even more this year. Will they? It will take tons of luck, good fortune, and players reaching their potential. But things are looking good on paper at least, to finally end the long ten-season playoff drought.
As far as the running backs go, I don’t see the Buccaneers as worried about the position as some in the media, or the fans are. They genuinely believe they can manufacture a solid running game with the current backs on the roster. And if Doug Martin comes back in Week 4, like the 2015 Doug Martin, then it is only a bonus.
If the running back group underperforms in 2017, you can bet that it will be a high priority in the offseason next year, and free agency is certainly a possibility to bring in talented players who can help this offense.
Question: Which position group has to improve the most for the BUCS to be successful this year. Safety or RB?
Answer: I believe improvement in production from both groups you mentioned are essential, but I would still dare to say, how far the Bucs jump will fall squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Jameis Winston. I am not complaining about Winston’s first two seasons in the NFL at all. I think he has done almost everything you would expect a quarterback to do in his first two seasons, and in some areas he has exceeded expectations. But this is a quarterback driven league and the days of winning Super Bowls with an average or mediocre quarterback is pretty much a distant memory. Sure there will be a team in the future that has a 2002 type Bucs defense, or a Ravens type group that carried their team to the Lombardi Trophy, but I believe it still takes outstanding quarterback play over a 16 game schedule to put a team in position to be Super Bowl champs.
With that said, I believe Winston is poised to take that next step. I think the organization realized they had a special talent, and went out and gave him enough weapons to succeed and win division titles, if not more, in the not-too-distant future. I believe it is up to Winston to perform at an even higher level moving forward, and I think he will.
Question: What position besides QB do you feel the Bucs could least afford an injury to a starter?
Answer: I think this question was brought up a few months back, but it is a good one, and one to revisit now that free agency and the draft are over. I polled the PewterReport.com staff to get their answers as well.
For me, the loss of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to injury would be devastating. While I like the Baker signing, I still see him most effective as lined up next to an outstanding three-technique, like McCoy. McCoy is, as of right now, the best pass rusher these team has. That isn’t to say that Noah Spence or Robert Ayers may have better numbers in 2017, I just think from a pure pass rushing standpoint, McCoy is the best on the roster at this point.
Trevor Sikkema went with wide receiver saying, losing a Mike Evans or a DeSean Jackson would be nearly impossible to replace due to the type of players they are, and the unique skill sets they offer, even if there is depth down the line.
Scott Reynolds quickly went with cornerback, noting the depth behind Grimes and McClain would leave the Bucs starting untested Ryan Smith and second-year player Vernon Hargreaves.
Question: Rumor Bucs tried to trade up toward top of 2nd round. Can you confirm if true & whether Budda Baker or someone else was target?
Answer: We can’t confirm with 100 percent certainty that the Bucs actually tried to move back up, but we believe the team did explore the option. Jason Licht has said many times, all teams like to gauge what it would take to move up, or move down, just in case there is someone there that they covet very highly, or if they have a second round grade on a player most teams have as a lower round guy. If that explanation makes sense. As far as a player they had interest in? Dalvin Cook was definitely a player that was under strong consideration at No. 19 overall (PewterReport now knows that to be true). With that said, the Bucs had no choice really but to take O.J. Howard at no. 19 as they, like many teams had him as a Top 10 talent. but I can confirm they are extremely please with Howard and with second rounder Justin Evans.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com 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, the beach and family time.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@example.com